Marijuana Laws in Washington State

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What Are the Laws in Washington Regarding Marijuana?

While many states' drug laws involve complex distinctions of weight and location when assigning penalties, Washington's rules are very straight forward. In 2012, Washington voters passed Initiative 502, which legalizes the commercial and recreation use of marijuana. As of December 6th, 2013, adults 21 years or older may legally purchase and consume marijuana in the state of Washington. Consumers can legally carry one ounce of marijuana, or 16 ounces of marijuana infused product, or 72 ounces of marijuana infused liquids.

In other words, consumers may purchase and carry one ounce of “pure” marijuana. “Pure” marijuana is marijuana with nothing else contained in it. Consumers are allowed to carry up to 16 ounces if the marijuana is a part of cookies, brownies, or any other substance. Consumers are allowed to carry up to 72 ounces if the marijuana is mixed with any kind of liquid, including water, soda, or alcohol.

Marijuana over these limits is still illegal.

Where Can I Use the Marijuana I Have Purchased?

Although Initiative 502 legalizes recreational use of marijuana, it still restricts the use of marijuana. In general, consumers cannot use marijuana in the general public. That is, consumers cannot use marijuana within the view of the public. It is still illegal to smoke marijuana at the park or on sidewalks.

In addition, Initiative 502 forbids the use of marijuana within 1000 feet of a school, playground, child care center, or publicly owned recreational center. Initiative 502 forbids the use of marijuana in these locations in order to protect children.

Finally, consumers are not allowed to use marijuana inside or around the store where they purchased the marijuana. 

What About the Sale of Marijuana?

Initiative 502 allows the Washington State Liquor Control Board to issue licenses for the production, processing or distribution of marijuana. Note that these are three different licenses, one for each role. The initiative permits individuals or businesses to hold a production and a processing license together. However, an individual or business which holds a retail license to distribute marijuana cannot hold a production or processing license. It is impossible to hold all three licenses at the same time.

Cultivation of marijuana is considered production of marijuana; in order to cultivate marijuana, one must have a production license. In addition, cultivation of marijuana is restricted to a 30,000 square foot area.

There is a $250 license fee and a $1000 annual renewal fee for these licenses. The fees are the same for all three licenses. The Washington State Liquor Control Board will begin accepting applications for these licenses on November 18, 2013. 

Can I Produce, Purchase, Carry, or Consume Marijuana if I Live Outside Washington?

Since Initiative 502 is a Washington state law, it is not possible to produce or carry marijuana outside the state. Non-Washington state citizens can travel to Washington to purchase and use marijuana though. The restrictions regarding purchase and use of marijuana are the same for citizens and non-citizens.

What if I Have a Doctor's Permission to Cultivate Medical Marijuana?

Although Initiative 502 legalizes the recreational use of marijuana, the initiative does nothing regarding the medical use of marijuana. The laws regarding medical marijuana are still the same.

Washington is one of 11 states that have enacted medical marijuana laws, so if you do have valid doctor's permission (with documentation), then this opens up some options. However, while Washington law removes state-level criminal penalties for the use, possession, or cultivation of marijuana by bona fide medical patients, it does not prohibit your arrest for those things. It merely allows medical marijuana to be used as a valid defense at trial. If your defense is successful, then the charges will be dropped. 

The law lists the conditions for which marijuana may be prescribed as:

However, the bill was later amended to also add "any disease which results in nausea, vomiting, wasting, appetite loss, cramping, seizures, muscle spasms, and/or spasticity, when these symptoms are unrelieved by standard treatments." This is obviously a very broad list, and as long as your doctor has recommended marijuana, his judgment will not usually be questioned by the court.

For cultivation, the state law allows patients (or their primary caregivers) to grow and maintain no more than a 60-day supply of marijuana. While there is no state run registry documenting who is a patient and who isn't, if you are arrested for whatever reason and are found to be in possession of more than a 60 day supply, then you may not be able to use the medical marijuana defense. (There is, however, great leeway in what constitutes a "60-day supply," since most patients self-medicate and choose their own daily dosages).

How Does Federal Law Fit Into This?

It is very important to remember that Washington's laws have no effect on the Federal Law banning all marijuana. This means that federal agents can still arrest you and sentence you to federal crimes, even if you are using marijuana under the guidance of a doctor.

However, on August 29, 2013, the Department of Justice released a statement saying that it would not challenge Washington’s new marijuana laws.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

In passing Initiative 502, Washington is taking an unprecedented step in the legalization of recreational marijuana. The laws regarding production, distribution and possession of marijuana is still a new field and there is bound to be some confusion regarding the application of these laws.

In addition, the interactions of state and federal law can be very confusing, so you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately to help understand exactly what rights you have in Washington, even if you haven't been arrested.

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Last Modified: 10-03-2013 03:51 PM PDT

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