Is marijuana legal in Washington?
Current legality status
Cannabis is legal under state law for adults 21+.
Like the other West Coast states, marijuana is legal for both recreational and medical use in Washington state.
Despite a long-established recreational and medical system, many aspects of cannabis in Washington state remain contentious. Cultivation for personal use is still a felony offense for non-medical patients, and public consumption will result in a $100 fine.
Washington also does not allow for home delivery of cannabis products from retail locations.
As of September 2020, bill HB 1945 has been introduced to the House, which would allow for “Special license endorsements for marijuana retail lounges, direct sales, and sampling from some marijuana producers, and adding marijuana to certain permits.”
In March 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed HB 2870, a bill that would establish a social equity program in Washington overseen by a Social Equity in Marijuana Task Force.
Washington recreational marijuana laws
Fourteen years after Washington legalized medical marijuana in 1998, voters approved Initiative 502, the Washington Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Initiative, in 2012.
The initiative effectively legalized possession, production, and consumption of cannabis for adults 21 and older, as well as outlined the structure of the imminent recreational market. Sales began in 2014 by licensed retail stores to adults 21 years or older. There are still gaps in legislation, such as certain testing regulations and delivery services.
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board regulates the recreational cannabis industry. As of July 1, 2016, the recreational cannabis and medical marijuana systems were folded into the same body of legislation.
Adults can possess up to 1 oz of flower, 16 oz of edibles, and 7 grams of cannabis concentrates. Medical patients are entitled to up to three times this amount.
While possession is legal, the sale or distribution of any amount of marijuana not within the legal framework is a C felony, with up to five years imprisonment and/or a fine up to $10,000. An additional mandatory fine of $1,000 applies to first offenses and a $2,000 fine to second or subsequent offenses.
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Washington medical marijuana laws
A medical defense for possession or use of cannabis has been upheld by the Washington Court of Appeals as early as 1979. After years of dispensaries operating illegally, voters passed Initiative 692 to legalize medical marijuana for qualifying medical patients in 1998. The main body of legislation governing the state’s medical marijuana program is the Revised Code of Washington Chapter 69.51A: Medical Cannabis.
In 2015, SB 5052 established the Cannabis Patient Protection Act to unite legislation for medical marijuana and recreational cannabis so that patients would be able to access products to the same standards of cultivation and testing as recreational users.
Medical patients, like adult consumers, can obtain cannabis and cannabis products like edibles and concentrates from licensed dispensaries. Patients are entitled to higher purchasing limits than recreational consumers, and can purchase up to three oz of flower, 48 oz of edibles, and 21 grams of cannabis concentrates.
Medical patients are also legally protected to cultivate up to 15 plants for personal use, while cultivation is still prohibited for non-medical consumers.
Washington qualifying conditions for medical marijuana
Washington allows medical patients with qualifying conditions, as recommended by an approved healthcare professional, to obtain, possess, cultivate, and use medical marijuana.
It should be noted that mental health conditions do not qualify patients, but the following physical conditions do:
- Chronic renal failure requiring hemodialysis
- Crohn’s disease
- Epilepsy or other seizure disorder, or spasticity disorders
- Hepatitis C
- Intractable pain, defined as “pain unrelieved by standard medical treatments and medications”
- Multiple sclerosis
- Diseases, including anorexia, which result in: nausea, vomiting, wasting, appetite loss, cramping, seizures, muscle spasms, or spasticity
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Traumatic brain injury
How to get a medical marijuana card in Washington
Medical patients must apply to the program under the Washington State Department of Health.
Potential patients should first consult with their healthcare practitioner to determine if their condition qualifies them. If so, they will receive a medical marijuana authorization form from their practitioner.
With the form and a valid, state-issued ID, potential patients should then contact a retail store with a medical endorsement and a certified medical marijuana consultant on site to schedule an appointment.
If approved, the consultant will register the patient into the medical marijuana database, and patients will pay an average of $1-$10 for their medical marijuana card.
Medical marijuana cards grant patients higher purchasing limits, exempt them from sales tax, protect them from arrests, and allow them to legally cultivate for personal use.
More information can be found on the Washington medical marijuana program site.
Does Washington accept out-of-state medical cards?
While Washington does allow non-residents 21 and up to purchase recreational marijuana, medical patients from other states cannot bring their medicine across state lines, and cannot use their out-of-state cards to purchase above the recreational limit of 1 oz of flower, 16 oz of edibles, and 7 grams of concentrate.
When does my Washington medical card expire?
Like many other states, medical patients must renew registration every year, with cards valid for one year from the issue date.
To renew, patients must renew their authorization from a healthcare practitioner and schedule a new appointment with a consultant.
Washington marijuana growing laws
While it is legal to possess and obtain cannabis in small amounts for Washington adults, home cultivation is still prohibited. Only qualifying medical patients can grow up to 15 plants in their private residence.
Without a medical card, cultivation in any amount is a class C felony, with up to five years imprisonment and/or a fine up to $10,000, with additional fines for subsequent offenses.
Washington public consumption laws
It is prohibited to smoke cannabis in public view, so only consumption in a private residence with the consent of the property owner is allowed.
Washington has no license or permit process for onsite consumption at retail stores.
Washington cannabis DUI laws
While it is legal to consume cannabis in Washington, it isn’t legal to drive under its influence. Cannabis is considered an intoxicating substance that would impair an individual’s ability to operate a motor vehicle.
While the DUI limit for blood alcohol content is 0.08%, it is also “illegal to drive with 5 ng/ml of THC or more in your blood if you are 21 or older.” Concentration is determined by a blood test, which Washington drivers all give implied consent for when they obtain a license. Refusal of a test can result in license suspension of one year.
An amount of THC present in the blood of a minor is illegal.
- First offense: 1-364 days in jail, (24 hours of which may not be suspended unless the offender’s physical or mental well-being is at risk), minimum $350 up to $5,000 in fines, 90-day driver’s license revocation, and the court may order 15 days of electronic home monitoring or a 90-day period of 24/7 sobriety program monitoring. You may also be required to have an IID installed on the vehicle.
- Second offense (within seven years): 30–364 days in jail, 60 days of electronic home monitoring, or an additional four days in jail, or six months in a 24/7 sobriety program, $500–$5,000 fine, two years license revocation, vehicle is subject to seizure and forfeiture, may be required to install an ignition interlock device on vehicle.
- Penalties escalate with subsequent offenses. See Rev. Code Wash. 46.61.5055 for more information.
Washington cannabis testing regulations
There are some gaping holes in Washington’s testing regulations, including no provisions for pesticides. Currently, the state requires testing of the following compounds for adult-use products:
- Cannabinoid potency, i.e. THC and CBD levels
- Microbial contamination from mold, fungus, or bacteria
- Mycotoxins produced by microorganisms
- Moisture (can increase the risk of microorganism contamination)
The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have interfered with moving legislation forward to require pesticide testing for cannabis flower and products.
Common questions about marijuana legalization in Washington
When did Washington legalize?
Washington legalized medical marijuana in 1998 and recreational cannabis in 2012. Recreational sales began mid-2014.
Are dabs legal in Washington?
Yes, it is legal to purchase and possess up to seven grams of dabbable cannabis concentrates for adults 21+.
How many recreational dispensaries are in Washington?
Currently, there are 334 allotted dispensaries in Washington state and over 500 with pending applications.
Where can I consume?
Only consumption in a private residence is allowed. Public consumption warrants a $100 fine.
Can I bring marijuana into Canada or bring Canadian marijuana into Washington since it is legal in both countries?
Absolutely not. Despite recreational legality in both countries, it is illegal to bring cannabis across the border at the state and international level.
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Post last updated Sept. 10, 2020