The story of Washington state's marijuana laws starts almost 100 years ago in the 1920s. As one of the first states to criminalize the use of cannabis, Washington first outlawed the possession of marijuana in 1923 with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. While many welcomed the ban, critics have suggested that the law was the result of xenophobic fears towards the drug's largely Mexican-American user base who were immigrating into the state in growing numbers.
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It wasn't until 1979 that the long march to legalization started when Washington courts recognized the benefits of medicinal cannabis in the case of State v. Diana. In the appellate ruling, the state set precedent by recognizing the benefits of marijuana use for the treatment of debilitating diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Even though marijuana remained illegal across the U.S., the 1990s saw a proliferation of cannabis clubs and co-ops, the first so-called "dispensaries," and in 1995 the Green Cross Patient Co-op -- a Bainbridge Island staple and beacon of hope for patients with AIDS, various forms of cancer and other central nervous system diseases such as MS -- became the first marijuana dispensary in the country to be raided and shut-down by law enforcement.
Following the dust-up and protracted legal battle over the validity of Green Cross Patient Co-op's operation, Washington state in 1997 held its first medical marijuana vote, but the referendum was defeated with 60 percent voting against the new law.
However, the very next year, in 1998, a reduced initiative that sought to decriminalize medical marijuana, thereby protecting patients in their purchase and use of cannabis, as well as giving powers to doctors to prescribe and treat patients with marijuana, passed with 59 percent of the vote.
In the following years, several promising Washington state marijuana laws either died in committee or at the signature-gathering level, but on November 6, 2012, Initiative 502 was passed by voters 56 percent to 44 percent, which legalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, as well as the licensing of growers, distributors and sellers.
On December 6, 2012, Washington became the first U.S. state with active recreational marijuana use laws, and 19 months later the first marijuana stores opened their doors to the public on July 8, 2014.
In 2015, the Washington state legislature approved the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, which consolidates much of the tax and regulatory structure of the state's medical and recreational marijuana markets. Though the measure enhances medical marijuana legal protections, the CPPA requires patients to pay the standard retail excise tax -- a 20 percent increase.
Together with Initiative 502, the CPPA lays the groundwork for the limits and penalties associated with Washington state marijuana laws.
Leafbuyer's Featured Washington Dispensaries
Click the map to explore dispensaries in Washington.
Whether you're looking for a new dispensary in Vancouver, a 420-friendly doctor in Spokane, or to find the perfect place for your next Seattle cannabis event, Leafbuyer helps you find the right dispensaries and services in Washington state. Just click the links below or use our interactive map!