California Laws for Growing Cannabis Explained

cannabis growing in a greenhouse

California laws for growing cannabis should, in a perfect world, be the same across the entire state. Unfortunately, California is so big that it's nearly impossible to get everyone on the same page. Since the legalization of recreational cannabis back in 2016, the attitude towards weed in California has steadily shifted. More and more recreational cannabis dispensaries in California are popping up as citizens voice their demands for increased rights to weed! To keep up with growing demands for cannabis in California, the laws for growing weed (both medically and recreationally) are in the midst of a huge overhaul. And despite statewide legalization, not every county agrees with citizens having the right to grow their own weed. Knowing the California laws for growing cannabis is important for any weed-lover looking to grow their own stash. It should be 100 percent legal to grow cannabis anywhere in California, but (as of now) it just isn't.

 Growing Cannabis in Northern California

California laws for growing cannabis are noticeably more lax in Northern California compared to more southern city ordinances. Coastal towns tend to favor pro-weed arguments and will often comply with the statewide legalization of cannabis. Traveling inland to the more rural areas you will observe a noticeable shift in opinion that aligns more with conservative, anti-pot campaigns. Large outdoor grows, both legal and illegal, are common in Northern California regions that boast large expanses of unused and isolated land (perfect for huge weed fields). Take a look at the specific California laws for growing cannabis in these large metropolitan city ordinances:

Calaveras County

Calaveras County is tiny, rural, and largely conservative. Weed grows very well in Calaveras County's climate, making it desirable for both commercial and personal grows. It became well known in the cannabis community after the Butte Fire evicted locals, effectively clearing the area for large-scale cannabis cultivation. The county is currently facing lawsuits for its retroactive rescinding of legalized cannabis grows ever since it banned the growing of cannabis. Farmers obtained the legal paperwork and permits, paid for them (along with all their equipment) and were effectively booted from the county shortly after. All recreational cannabis grows have been banned in Calaveras County, and medicinal consumers must keep their grows hidden. One of the worst places in California if you're looking for progressive cannabis laws.


Humboldt was on the forefront of progressive cannabis lawmaking, and is well known for its easygoing attitude for weed and weed-growers alike. The specific rules for personal cannabis cultivation can be found here, so make sure to give it a read through if you plan to grow in the area. Expect little to no problems with the law if you keep your grow reasonable and away from the public eye. Humboldt's laws for growing cannabis may be lax, but even they might not allow an obvious pot farm by a school. Common sense seems to be Humboldt's best law for growing cannabis.


If you are unfamiliar with California, you may be surprised to hear that the areas surrounding Sacramento are incredibly rural. As such, views toward cannabis are slightly on the stricter side. No outdoor grows are permitted in Sacramento. All weed must be grown indoors and you may have up to nine plants. Keep the grow out of public eye and make sure to look up the specific laws for growing cannabis in the smaller areas surrounding Sacramento as they may differ. 

San Francisco Bay Area

The San Francisco Bay Area is a mecca for all things weed. Growing laws are strict, not because of anti-weed semantics, but rather due to shortages of land and property in such a densely populated area. Any person over the age of 21 may grow up to six plants per home. Pot plants may also be kept in a yard if it is secure and not visible to the public eye. As very few people actually own land in San Francisco, make sure your landlord/lady is chill with weed before getting started on your grow. Smoking weed may be acceptable in San Francisco (with its rich cannabis history), but the laws for growing cannabis are a bit more tricky.

Santa Cruz 

Santa Cruz: birthplace of Blue Dream, surf city, and verified stoner haven. Smoking weed here is no problem, but housing issues make growing a little more difficult. Make sure that your landlord/lady approves (or at least doesn't care) that you're growing weed on their property. Santa Cruz laws for growing cannabis state that all grows must be indoors or in an appropriately constructed greenhouse. Growing weed on your porch may not be the best idea here (and not only because it will probably be stolen). Watch out for mold when growing in Santa Cruz since the beachside town is known for its humidity.

Growing Cannabis in Southern California

Southern California is an epicenter for entertainment, food, luxury, and now cannabis! Since 2016 a large number of recreational dispensaries and other cannabis-related businesses have come onto the scene. Restaurants that specialize in cannabis-infused meals, spas that celebrate weed, and more events than one person can go to — all dedicated to cannabis! That doesn't mean that all people in Southern California are pro-cannabis, however, as many steps have been taken to limit individual, personal use of cannabis and cannabis products. Southern California lawmakers seem to take a less liberal approach to laws for growing weed, tending to favor smaller, indoor-only grows. The cannabis industry in Southern California is booming, but don't let opportunistic entrepreneurs overshadow the still-existent stigma against weed.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles is bustling with all the trendiest, most hip businesses and commodities that you can imagine. With weed's growing popularity it's no wonder how well the cannabis industry has taken off. In accordance with the rise in demand for cannabis-related everything, Los Angeles' laws on personal cultivation allow for both in and outdoor cannabis grows, so long as the plants are not visible to the public. Front yard grows are prohibited, and all weed-growing areas demand opaque walls no less than six feet in height. Cannabis plants may not exceed six feet in height as well. As common sense should dictate, growing cannabis is not permitted on land that is near schools, libraries, or parks (basically anywhere with children, which makes a lot of sense).

Orange County

Orange County is more conservative than its northernmost neighbor, Los Angeles. The laws for growing cannabis in Orange County dictate that all grows must take place indoors, either in your house or a secure structure (like a shed). Expect harsher enforcement of cannabis laws and regulations in Orange County, so make sure to read the individual city codes to make sure you're dotting each “i” and crossing every “t”. Bureaucracy is boring, but it may be helpful for growing weed in the Orange County area.

Palm Springs

Palm Springs is located in Riverside County but is perhaps the most popular cultural hub in the area. Home to pot-loving retiree's and Coachella-goers alike, you can imagine that weed is generally well accepted. Palm Springs has different growing laws depending on your status as a recreational or medicinal cannabis user. Medicinal laws for growing cannabis in Riverside County allow for up to 12 plants, while recreational growers area allowed six. Medical consumers may grow outside, but grows are otherwise restricted to indoors and away from the public.

San Diego

San Diego, one of the southernmost counties in California, requires that all cannabis be grown indoors. Area-specific laws for growing cannabis put a max limit for plants at six, so don't expect to get away with any large-scale cannabis farming here. Instead, read up on how to achieve the biggest yield indoors!

Staying Up-to-Date on California Laws for Growing Cannabis

The California laws for growing cannabis are ever-changing and evolving, especially with legalization passing so recently. As time goes on the laws will settle into place and not be subject to such constant fluctuations. Before making any big decisions (moving, buying expensive weed-growing equipment, etc...) make sure to double-check with the individual county laws. You don't want to end up like some California growers: cheated and in the middle of lawsuits with counties that approved their grows, took their money, and then banned cannabis cultivation. Hopefully, California laws for growing cannabis will stop their rapid changes and stabilize soon, letting us all get on with the real treat: smoking your own, homegrown weed!