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Washington (state)

Cannabis Legalization in Washington (state)

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Washington was the first North American state to legalize recreational cannabis and one of the first to introduce a medical cannabis program. The state’s cannabis culture is one of the most developed in the US and has resulted in the creation of an enormous cannabis tourism industry.

Washington State is world-renowned for the relaxed approach its policy-makers and residents take to cannabis consumption. The state’s road to legalization wasn’t entirely smooth, but Washington was nonetheless the first North American state to legalize recreational cannabis. This followed an extensive period of prohibition, which began almost 100 years ago.

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When Did Prohibition Come Into Effect in Washington?

All forms of cannabis were officially prohibited in Washington in the 1920s, at which time possession of even small quantities could land a person in jail for up to ten years. The state became infamous for its hard-hitting anti-cannabis propaganda campaigns, which suggested cannabis was responsible for people committing violent crimes and going insane. The propaganda campaign primarily focused on Mexican American communities, scapegoated for the growing prevalence of cannabis and its use state-wide.

When Was Medical Marijuana Legalized in Washington State?

Washington became one of the first states to introduce a medical cannabis program in 1979, when the Washington Court of Appeal ruled that there was (in special cases) a medical defence for the possession and consumption of cannabis. No action would therefore be taken against ‘qualifying’ patients, but at the time there was no legal way for anyone to obtain medical cannabis.

Throughout the 1990s, a series of ‘cannabis clubs’ opened across the state, which despite operating in defiance of Federal law didn’t prompt any action from local law enforcement. They were simply ignored, ultimately leading to the formal legalization of medical cannabis in 1998. By 2011, it was estimated that there were already around 75 cannabis dispensaries in Seattle and more than 55 in Spokane. The state’s medical cannabis infrastructure was essentially in place and open for business, long before formal policy came into effect.

When Was Recreational Cannabis Legalized in Washington?

Recreational cannabis possession and consumption was legalized in November 2012, when I-502 passed by a relatively compact margin – 55.7% to 44.3%. In early December that year, it became legal for adults to possess a maximum of 1oz of cannabis on their person. However, it remained illegal to cultivate, sell or give away cannabis free of charge in any quantities. It was a year later in November 2013 the United States Department of Justice stated that it would not take action against individual states’ policies regarding medical cannabis. After which, Washington effectively green-lighted the industry, outlining plans to issue more than 330 retail store licenses. Washington’s first recreational cannabis store was open for business on July 8, 2014.

What Are the Cannabis Retail Licensing Rules in Washington?

Washington State offers three different tiers of licensing for commercial cannabis businesses – marijuana retailer, marijuana processor and marijuana producer. All licenses are issued subject to specific criteria being fulfilled, though it is possible to hold more than one license at the same time. The state’s standard license application fee is set at a comparative low $266, while each of the three license types costs $1,062 per year to renew.

How Many Licenses Does Washington Plan to Issue?

The state has so far published no formal limitation on the number of licenses that will be issued. Precisely why Washington already has one of the most established networks of cannabis dispensaries in the whole of the United States.

Can I Grow My Own Cannabis in Washington State?

This is perhaps the only aspect of the state’s recreational cannabis policy that’s a little disappointing. For the time being, there are no allowances whatsoever in state law for growing your own cannabis at home (for recreational use). Different rules apply for qualifying medical patients, but recreational users are forbidden from growing, selling and/or gifting cannabis of any kind. All cannabis and related products must be purchased from a licensed store.

Where Are Washington’s Cannabis Stores Located?

There’s such a huge network of cannabis stores across Washington that you won’t have to look far to find one. However, stores are not allowed to operate within 1,000 feet of any school, library, park, public transport centre, playground or recreation centre. Dispensary license applications are heavily scrutinised on the basis of the store’s intended location.

Can I Consume Cannabis in a Cannabis Store?

As it stands, Washington continues to impose strict restrictions on the consumption of both recreational and medical cannabis. It is forbidden to consume cannabis in public places, which includes licensed cannabis stores. It is currently only possible to consume cannabis (legally) on private property. Consumption in public spaces is punishable by way of an on-the-spot penalty.

Can I Buy Cannabis as a Visitor to Washington?

State law imposes no restrictions on the purchase and consumption of cannabis by non-residents. Nonetheless, it can be difficult to track down a place to legally consume cannabis as a visitor, as the vast majority of hotels and apartments prohibit cannabis consumption. There is, however, a growing market for weed-friendly Airbnb owners, so it’s worth checking those out before booking.

What About Taking Legal Cannabis Out of Washington State?

Across the United States as a whole, it is still against the law to cross any state line with any amount of cannabis on your person. Even if crossing between two states with similar legal cannabis policies, you are still committing a Federal crime and could be prosecuted. All cannabis purchased in Washington must be consumed exclusively in Washington.

What is the DUI Law in Washington Where Cannabis Is Concerned?

It is stated in Washington’s official cannabis policy that driving with THC levels greater than or equal to 5 nanograms per millilitre of blood (5 ng/mL) constitutes a DUI. As elsewhere, cannabis testing methods remain fundamentally flawed and can detect trace amounts of cannabis in the blood several days after consumption.

Can My Employer Legally Test Me for Cannabis Use?

In accordance with the contract you signed at the commencement of your employment, your employer can implement any cannabis policy they see appropriate. If this includes scheduled or unannounced cannabis testing, they are perfectly within their rights to test you. They’re also permitted to take action against you as they see fit, if the test comes back positive. As cannabis remains illegal at a Federal level, there are no protections in place in Washington State for cannabis users at work. Speak to your employer directly for more information.

Will the Federal Government Intervene in Washington?

While it’s technically possible, it’s highly unlikely that the Fed will intervene at a state-level anywhere in the US. As it stands, everyone involved in the cultivation, distribution and consumption of cannabis in the US is breaking Federal law – and could therefore be prosecuted. Nevertheless, the Fed has stated previously that just as long as sensible rules are followed and restrictions put in place, it will not take action against individual states.

Does Washington Still Have a Medical Cannabis Program?

As is the case with many states, Washington has a medical cannabis program that’s run as a separate entity to its recreational cannabis program. In order to qualify for a medical cannabis card in Washington State, the patient first needs to be diagnosed with a qualifying condition. After which, a medical cannabis ID application can be submitted online, after which the patient may be permitted to visit the state’s medical cannabis dispensaries.

What’s the Point of a Medical Cannabis Card in Washington?

If you intend to use cannabis in Washington for medical purposes, it is still worth applying for a medical cannabis ID. This is because the state’s medical cannabis dispensaries are currently the only place you can obtain formal advice on medical cannabis. It is illegal for recreational stores to offer anything that may constitute medical advice or suggestions. In addition, top-shelf cannabis may be sold to qualifying patients by licensed dispensaries at a lower price. You are also permitted to cultivate your own cannabis as a medical cannabis patient, in accordance with your established requirements.

Can I Buy Cannabis in Washington for Someone Else?

Unless you are their registered caregiver and they have a medical cannabis purpose, no – you can only buy cannabis for your own personal consumption. Any kind of distribution without a license is illegal.

What Kinds of Cannabis Products Are for Sale in Washington?

Washington has one of the broadest and most dynamic cannabis product markets in the US – if not the world. Along with hundreds of different strains in traditional flower-form, stores also stock edibles, topicals, concentrates, tinctures and so on. Recreational stores can provide advice on cannabis product selection for pure enjoyment, but cannot advise on the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

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