While many states' drug laws involve complex distinctions of weight and location when assigning penalties, Washington's rules are very straight forward. 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 small amounts of marijuana, for example they can carry:
- One ounce of marijuana,
- Up to 16 ounces if the marijuana is a part of cookies, brownies, or any other substance, or
- Up to 72 ounces if the marijuana is mixed with any kind of liquid, including water, soda, or alcohol, and
- Marijuana-related paraphernalia.
Marijuana over these limits is still illegal. Additionally, there are other limitations to recreational marijuana use in Washington. You must purchase marijuana from a state-licensed retailer. And, driving under the influence of marijuana is still illegal.
Where Can I Use the Marijuana I Have Purchased?
Consumers cannot use marijuana in public places or in the public view. Additionally, you cannot use marijuana within 1000 feet of a school, playground, childcare center, or publicly owned recreational center. Finally, consumers are not allowed to use marijuana inside or around the store where they purchased the marijuana.
Are There Rules About Selling Marijuana?
The Washington State Liquor Control Board to issues licenses for the production, processing, or distribution of marijuana. There are separate licenses for growing, processing, and selling marijuana. And, you cannot “vertically integrate” your operation—you may hold either production and processing licenses or a retail license. (An operation cannot grown, process, and sell its own marijuana.) To obtain a license, you must:
- Complete an application,
- Pass a criminal background check,
- Meet residency requirements,
- Pay associated fees, and
- Meet other legal requirements.
Washington also limits the number of marijuana-related businesses in the state. At the present time, the state is not accepting applications for new licenses. (Contact a Washington business lawyer for the most up-to-date information.)
Can I Produce, Purchase, Carry, or Consume Marijuana if I Live Outside Washington?
Washington’s laws do not apply outside the state. Therefore, you should not carry marijuana outside the state. However, non-Washington state citizens can travel to Washington to purchase and use marijuana. 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?
Washington is one of 44 states that have enacted medical marijuana laws. Licensed patients (or their primary caregivers) can purchase, grow and possess medicinal marijuana. However, there are limits to the amount of marijuana you can purchase or grow. For example, Washington typically limits you to growing six medicinal marijuana plants in your home. Medicinal marijuana can be used to treat terminal and debilitating medical conditions. These include:
- HIV and AIDS,
- Multiple sclerosis (MS),
- Epilepsy and other seizure disorders,
- Intractable pain that is not relieved by traditional methods,
- Crohn’s disease,
- Hepatitis C,
- Diseases involving nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, and wasting,
- Diseases involving severe muscle spasm, cramping, seizures, or spasticity,
- Chronic renal failure,
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and
- Traumatic brain injuries.
Other conditions, such as anxiety and bipolar disorder, are not covered by the state’s medicinal marijuana laws. If you have questions about your eligibility, speak with a licensed medical provider.
How Does Federal Law Fit Into This?
It is very important to remember that Washington's laws have no effect on federal marijuana laws. 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.
While the Obama administration released a statement saying that it would not challenge Washington’s new marijuana laws, the current administration can charge this policy at any time. Contact a criminal defense lawyer for the most up-to-date information about federal marijuana policies.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
While Washington has very liberal marijuana laws, not all use, production, and distribution is permitted. If you violate Washington’s laws, you can be charged with a criminal offense and face jail time. Additionally, federal law still prohibits marijuana use and distribution. If you have concerns about the legality of your operation or activities, contact a criminal defense lawyer for help.