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Frequently Asked Questions About Marijuana in Washington

In 2012, Washington voters passed Initiative 502, becoming one of the first two states to fully legalize marijuana use. Occupying the northwestern tip of the contiguous United States, Washington is home to rugged coastal beaches, the dense canopy of mountain rain forest, and a multicultural hub of modern innovation and expression - Seattle.

Is marijuana legal in Washington?

Washington currently offers both medical and recreational sales of marijuana. Recreational cannabis sales are restricted to adults age 21 and older. Medical patients are, in most cases, required to be 18 or older to register within the state medical marijuana program. Patients under 18 are accepted into the medical marijuana program with additional care requirements.

When did marijuana become legal in Washington?

Washington voters passed Initiative 692 in 1998, authorizing the state to certify patients in the medical use of marijuana. In November 2012, voters then passed Initiative 502. Titled the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act, it allows adults age 21 and older purchase marijuana for recreational use.

Where are the marijuana dispensaries?

Marijuana Dispensaries can be found across Washington, with most state jurisdictions permitting licensed cultivation, manufacturing, and retail sales of cannabis. Currently, a total of ten municipal governments have limited the number of marijuana licenses issued, placed a moratorium on retail sales and licensure of businesses, or out-right prohibited the operation of retail cannabis facilities.

Are they medical or recreational marijuana dispensaries?

Both medical and recreational dispensaries are available. However, the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, a measure that was meant to reconcile parts of the medical and recreational markets, affected the licensing procedure for medical dispensaries. As a result, hundreds of medical-only dispensaries have closed within the state. Not to worry, however, as many recreational dispensaries provide medical cannabis products to valid patients.

Who can be a medical patient in Washington? Who can purchase recreationally?

Under Washington law, recreational marijuana can be purchased, sold, or transferred by and to anyone 21 years and older. Washington medical marijuana patients first must be Washington state residents. Patients are not restricted by age, though in order for someone under 18 to become a medical patient, the parent must consent and register to be the child's caregiver. The physician is required to consult with other physicians before certifying the medical use of marijuana for patients under 18. Furthermore, the physician must see the patient at least twice a year - as opposed to the annual requirement for adults - to evaluate the patient symptoms and effectiveness of treatment. For all other Washington medical marijuana patients, you must be at least 18 years of age. The state of Washington currently recognizes the following ailments and debilitating illnesses in their medical program:
  • Cancer
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Epilepsy or other seizure/ spasticity related disorders
  • Pain not adequately addressed by current medicine options
  • Glaucoma, either acute or chronic, that is unresponsive to current treatments
  • Crohn's disease
  • Hepatitis C
  • Anorexia, which can result in nausea, vomiting, wasting, appetite loss, cramping, seizures, muscle spasms, or spasticity
  • Chronic kidney failure
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Traumatic brain injuries
The Cannabis Patient Protection Act also allows petitions for additional conditions and diseases to be added to the list of approved illnesses. Anxiety, depression, and a variety of other mental health issues, however, have been determined by Washington state not to be adequately addressed by medical marijuana.

How do I become a medical marijuana member in Washington?

First, you must be a Washington state resident. The next step is seeking a medical cannabis recommendation from a doctor in good standing with the state. Washington currently recognizes the following health professionals as being eligible to recommend patients:
  • Medical doctor (MD)
  • Physician assistant (PA)
  • Osteopathic physician (DO)
  • Osteopathic physician assistant (DOA)
  • Naturopathic physician
  • Advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP)

How much marijuana can I buy in Washington? How much can I possess?

Washington marijuana laws on possession and purchase limits vary depending on if you are a medical patient or recreational customer. Recreational marijuana customers are allowed the following purchase and possession limits: In comparison, medical patients in the state medical authorization database are eligible to purchase and possess the following amounts of marijuana and marijuana-infused products:
  • Up to three ounces of useable marijuana or
  • Up to 48 ounces of marijuana-infused products in solid form
  • Up to 216 ounces of infused marijuana product in liquid form or
  • Up to 21 grams of marijuana concentrates

Can I grow marijuana in Washington? How many plants?

At-home cultivation is only allowed for medical patients, but only if they have first registered in the state authorization database. Patients can then grow, on average, between four and six cannabis plants. Plant counts can extend up to 15 as directed by the physician.

How do I get a job in the marijuana industry of Washington state?

To become a Certified Marijuana Consultant, an individual must be age 21 or older, have completed a 20-hour training program, be certified in CPR, and submit an application, application fee ($95 USD) to the Washington Department of Health.

Is drug testing for marijuana legal in Washington?

Neither Initiative 692 or Initiative 502 specify any protections in regards to employer drug testing policy and practice. As a good rule of thumb, assume the use of cannabis remains a problem while on the job.

Is marijuana delivery legal?

Delivery of marijuana in Washington state is not currently legal. There is legislation working through the state to address this issue.

How can I pay for marijuana in Washington dispensaries?

A result of the continued conflict with federal law, banking, and card services have yet to be fully integrated into the legal marijuana industry. Most sales at Washington dispensaries are in cash, and most dispensaries will have an ATM on site. Some dispensaries will allow debit card purchases, running the card as an ATM transaction.

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Washington Marijuana Laws

Washington began their foray into reformed marijuana laws in 1998 with the passage of Initiative 692. I-692 garnered nearly 59% of the vote, effectively conveying the opinion of over 1.1 million residents. In 2012, over 1.7 million Washington voices - a total of 55% of the voting population - further sought to reform the way Washington approached marijuana use, possession, distribution, and sales, joining Colorado in bravely passing full adult legalization of marijuana.

In 2015, the Washington legislature approved the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, consolidating much of the tax and regulatory structures of state's medical and recreational marijuana markets. Though the measure enhances medical patient legal protections, the CPPA also requires patients to pay the standard retail excise tax - a 20% increase. The CPPA, along with Initiative 502, lay the groundwork for the limits and penalties associated with Washington marijuana laws.

Purchase & Possession Limits

Medical patients who choose not to register in the Washington medical authorization database and all adult customers age 21 and older are able to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis in public. This is equivalent to
  • Up to seven grams of marijuana concentrates
  • Up to 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product(s) in solid form (such as cannabutter) or
  • Up to 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form (such as tincture)
Washington medical patients who voluntarily choose to register on the state authorization database are eligible for increased possession limits, are not subject to sales taxes, and have the ability to grow up to 15 plants at home, at the discretion of the physician. Typically, however, patients are authorized to grow between four and six plants. The increased possession and purchase limits for registered patients are as follows:
  • Up to three ounces of useable marijuana in public
  • Up to 48 ounces of marijuana-infused products in solid form
  • Up to 216 ounces of infused marijuana product in liquid form or
  • Up to 21 grams of marijuana concentrates
In addition to being eligible to cultivate marijuana at home, patients registered on the state database may participate in cooperative growing.

Driving while under the influence of marijuana

Increases in cannabis-related traffic incidents are points of concern for the Department of Justice. As a result, Washington state continues to evolve strategy when it comes to impaired driving and cannabis use, placing priority on ensuring public safety.

According to Initiative 502, the presence of THC at a rate above five nanograms per milliliter of blood qualifies as intoxication and can be used as evidence of criminal behavior. It is important to note that the metabolite THC-COOH, or carboxy-THC, is not tested for in regards to impaired driving.

Driving while in possession of marijuana

If you are not under the influence of marijuana while in operational control of a vehicle, Washington marijuana laws allow the transport of cannabis around the state. However, the fact that marijuana is legal in neighboring Oregon does not make it legal to take marijuana purchased in Washington to Oregon. By state law, such an action is equal to interstate drug trafficking.

Marijuana use by minors

Felony charges and civil penalties are available to anyone who sells or distributes marijuana to anyone under the age of 21. Washington penalizes unlicensed sales and distribution of marijuana strictly; even more so when it affects vulnerable populations.

Dispensaries, cultivation centers, and product manufacturers, as well as personal medical cultivation and co-op growing - unless specified by the local government - must not operate in residential areas or within 1,000 feet of public parks, drug-free public housing projects, or schools.

Places to consume under Washington marijuana laws

Consumption of marijuana in Washington is not to be done within public view, leaving a private residence as the best place to consume. Smoking marijuana or using cannabis products is prohibited at National Parks, state beaches, ski resorts, and - in general - anywhere that may be interpreted as "in public view." Senate Bill 2136, passed in 2015, explicitly makes the operation of a marijuana social club a felony offense, further limiting legal places to smoke marijuana within the state.

Marijuana-friendly hotels, bed and breakfasts, inns, and hostels operate across the state and are often advertised as such within their online policy guide. Additionally, Airbnb generally has several listings that are touted as being 4/20 friendly.

Penalties and fines

Anyone caught growing marijuana without a valid medical recommendation is subject to felony charges, up to $10,000 in fines, and as much as five years in prison.

Any person caught distributing marijuana without a valid license is committing a felony offense, with fines as high as $10,000 and up to 10 years in prison.

Any person possessing over the limits defined by Initiative 502 or the Cannabis Patient Protection Act are subject to misdemeanor or felony charges (based on total volume in possession), carrying jail or prison sentencing and fines ranging between $1,000 and $10,000. Similarly, any person possessing more than 40 grams of marijuana concentrates are subject to felony charges, fines up to $10,000, and five years or less in prison.

Currently, public consumption is a civil penalty carrying a maximum fine of $100. Consumption at schools, parks, and federal property are usually fined double.

Prospects for the future

A number of legislative measures expanding or revising parts of Washington's marijuana laws have been submitted as possible ballot initiatives. In 2017, a bill was introduced aimed at addressing marijuana cultivation for non-medical, recreational customers. The proposed bill would allow retail customers the legal opportunity to cultivate as many as six plants in their home and would change the possession limit to one pound (16 ounces) for marijuana kept at home. The one-ounce limit would remain intact in public.

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Washington Marijuana Prices and Economic Data

Washington State was the second state in the US to implement recreational marijuana laws. Three years later, prices for medical and recreational sales have generally stabilized.

Prices of Flower

  • 1 gram: $5-$15
  • 1/8 oz: $25-$40
  • 1/4 oz: $50-$80
  • 1/2 oz: $90-$140
  • 1 oz: $200-$250

Prices of Concentrates

  • Wax (1 gram): $25-$40
  • Shatter (1 gram): $30-$45
  • Kief (1 gram): $10-$20
  • Live Resin (1 gram): $60-$85
  • Oil Cartridge (500mg): $35-$50
Edibles range from $15-$30 for 100mg. Individual 10mg doses are available for $5-$10.

Purchase limits

Both recreational customers and medical patients are limited in how much they may purchase or possess at any one time. In general, adults age 21 and older and medical patients who are not registered on the Washington medical authorization database may purchase and possess any one of the following in public:
  • up to one ounce of cannabis (28 grams)
  • up to seven grams of marijuana concentrates
  • up to 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product(s) in solid form or
  • up to 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form
Washington medical patients who voluntarily register on the authorization database are eligible to purchase & possess up to three ounces of useable marijuana or up 48 ounces of marijuana-infused products in solid form, 216 ounces of infused marijuana product in liquid form, or 21 grams of marijuana concentrates.

Tax Revenue & Industry Impacts

In 2015, Washington simplified the tax structure on marijuana, implementing a 37% excise tax on sales. In the 2016 fiscal year, Washington reported nearly $1 billion in sales - collecting over $185 million of tax revenues. In 2017, the state expects to collect nearly $200 million in taxes.

So where does it go?

Initiative 502 directs the Alcohol Control Board to deposit all marijuana tax revenues, licensing fees, application costs, and other incomes related to marijuana-related activities into a fund created specifically for this purpose. The dedicated marijuana fund directs the new state and local tax revenue towards education, healthcare, drug research and substance abuse prevention.

Washington chose to do this in a number of ways that would directly contribute to the funding of over ten new or existing state education, public health, and social welfare programs. The Washington state legislature has compiled an extensive briefing on where the taxes ultimately go.

Industry Impacts and Licensure Statistics

As of late February 2017, Washington has issued 485 active retail licenses, placing the tally of dispensaries in the state near 500. The state has also issued 169 producer licenses, 151 processor licenses, and over 967 licenses for producer & processor dual licensure, representing several thousand of jobs across the state.

Since the state implemented their recreational market, over $400 million in tax revenue has been collected. The Washington criminal justice system in the state is also experiencing relief, seeing a 98% drop in low-level violations related to marijuana use in 2015, while between 2011-2013, there was an 81% drop observed in overall marijuana convictions in the state.

Marijuana Activities: Things to do in Washington

Washington's marijuana laws expressly prohibit the consumption of marijuana in any public place. If that were not enough, the state legislature has made it a felony offense to operate a private marijuana club. Still, Washington tolerates a variety of industry-related trade shows annual events, and gatherings. As the marijuana industry becomes further integrated into society, social activities and the possibility of legal social consumption become more likely.

Seattle Hempfest

Seattle Hempfest is an annual festival on the third weekend of August. It has been gracing Seattle for over twenty years. Beginning as a small protest for marijuana policy reform, today Hempfest is a three-day festival attracting tens of thousands of people each year. In 2014, the three-day "protestival" attracted over 120,000 guests, who spent over $7.1 million in King County during their visit. The festival includes a world-class collection of industry leaders and drug reform pioneers who prepare instructional seminars, discuss innovations in the industry, and elaborate on the federal and regulatory environment as the industry - and public interest - continue to gain momentum.

Cannabis Grand Cru

Another industry meetup, the Cannabis Grand Cru is aimed at driving innovation and furthering public education in the quickly growing cannabis industry. Speakers and vendors from across the industry come together to have conversations on the political landscape, how to cook with cannabis, the current and future promise of cannabis extracts and concentrates, economic policy on the cannabis industry, and a variety of other topics. The central goal is to educate the public and accelerate innovations in cultivation and medicinal understanding.

Dinners or Weddings

The increased acceptance of cannabis in Washington has inspired the internationally renowned food culture of Seattle to intermingle with the flavor-passions of cannabis enthusiasts. The result: private dining that includes infused-edible delicacies.

Augmented by cannabinoids, cannabis weddings seek to expand upon the celebratory & cultural traditions of marriage and the legal transition into love. Whether cannabis is included by theme or by food, a marriage is elevated by Washington's recently enacted marijuana freedoms.

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