Recreational Marijuana in Washington State
TripSavvy / Rob Hadley
Washington visitors interested in using marijuana products should be aware of the details of the law regarding purchase, possession, and consumption. There are still significant restrictions on pot possession and use, as well as many practical details to be worked out about how the law will actually be implemented as many of Washington’s weed tourism services, are still being developed.
Washington State’s Initiative 502 (I-502), which decriminalizes recreational marijuana, was voted into law in November 2012. The law allows the creation of a licensed and regulated system of marijuana production and distribution, similar to the state’s liquor controls. However, I-502 does not preempt federal law. The production, distribution, sale, possession, and use of marijuana is still against and may be prosecuted under US federal law, and marijuana use is prohibited by many employers.
Keep in mind that in order to legally consume marijuana, you must be at least 21 years old. Here are some things Washington State visitors should know to stay on the right side of state law regarding recreational marijuana.
Buying Legally: Dispensaries and Shops
A few licensed retail marijuana shops are now open for business, with more opening all the time. These shops are devoted only to marijuana and marijuana products and will not sell anything else, but cannabis sampling or consumption is not allowed on the premises. Liquor stores, convenience stores, and other existing businesses will not be allowed to add pot products to their offerings.
If you’re looking for a dispensary, the easiest way to do so is to use the Leafly Store Finder app, which provides an interactive map to current marijuana retailers with detailed information about the various strains available in the shop. You can also check out the Washington State Liquor Control Board’s list of Issued Retail Licenses, which has the information for all marijuana license applicants, including the names, addresses, and phone numbers of active and pending retailers.
Where to Smoke: Private Property
When it comes time to actually consume your marijuana products, there are few places you’re legally allowed to do so in Washington State, despite the law allowing you to buy, possess, and use it. City and state laws prohibit use in the view of the public, so your best bet is to smoke on private property.
What this means, typically, is that you have to be in someone’s private residence and have permission to smoke. However, if you find yourself in a hotel that allows smoking in the rooms, you are legally allowed to smoke marijuana there.
How Much You Can Buy: Legal Quantities
If you are 21 years of age or older in Washington State, you will not be prosecuted under state law for the possession or use of:
- One ounce of usable marijuana
- Marijuana-related paraphernalia
- 16 ounces of solid marijuana-infused product
- 72 ounces of liquid marijuana-infused product
- 7 grams of marijuana concentrate
Legal Terminology: Usable and Marijuana-Infused Products
When it comes to keeping track of your quantities, keep in mind that “usable marijuana,” “marijuana-infused product,” and “marijuana concentrate are all separate things.
According to I-502, “usable marijuana” refers to the dried marijuana flowers. Vaporizers also referred to as vape pens or vapor inhalers, have become popular “smokeless” ways to consume marijuana but still require “useable marijuana.”
On the other hand, marijuana-infused products (both solid and liquid) are defined by I-502 as “products that contain marijuana or marijuana extracts and are intended for human use.” This could include things that you eat or drink, like baked goods, candy, or sodas. The Washington State Liquor Control Board maintains a list of the weed-infused products that are currently approved.
Whether you're a weed tourist or just curious about the legality of pot in the state, this guide will help you understand marijuana laws in Washington.
Washington Marijuana Laws
Currently, both medical and recreational marijuana is legal in Washington. As the second state to legalize recreational marijuana, Washington is a hot-spot for cannabis tourism.
Purchasing Marijuana in Washington
Anyone over the age of 21 with a valid ID from any US State (or international passport) can legally purchase marijuana in Washington State, although some local jurisdictions have banned dispensaries within their city limits.
Purchases include both cannabis and cannabis-infused products along with paraphernalia such as pipes, lighters and papers, making most recreational marijuana dispensaries a one-stop smoke shop. When it is time to light up, however, make sure you’re not anywhere near a school, park or public transportation, otherwise you could be subject to a fine.
Purchasing & Possession Limits
Customers can purchase up to one ounce of cannabis flower at a time.The limit for concentrates is seven grams; for edibles it is 16 ounces; and for liquids it is 72 ounces. This is also the limit you can have on your person at any time. If you have any more than this, it’s possible the law will see this as “intent to distribute” and impose jail time or a fine.
Medical marijuana patients, however, have higher possession limits. All cardholders in the state may possess up to three ounces of usable marijuana, forty-eight ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, two hundred sixteen ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form or, twenty-one grams of marijuana concentrate.
Patients who cultivate their own cannabis are also allowed to possess higher amounts, but only if the cannabis is from their own crop. For the standard 6 plants all medical cardholders are allowed to grow, a patient may possess up to eight ounces of personally cultivated usable marijuana. Those with extended plant counts (up to 15), may possess up to 16 oz (1lb) of useable marijuana. Where to Buy
Cannabis delivery of any kind is not allowed in Washington state.
Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana
Washington state’s medical marijuana program is separate and distinct from adult-use regulations. The program allows for different pricing and possession for patients with debilitating or terminal illnesses. The qualifying conditions for the state’s program are:
- Cancer, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), multiple sclerosis, epilepsy or other seizure disorder, or spasticity disorders.
- Intractable pain, limited for the purpose of this chapter to mean pain unrelieved by standard medical treatments and medications.
- Glaucoma, either acute or chronic, limited for the purpose of this chapter to mean increased intraocular pressure unrelieved by standard treatments and medications.
- Crohn’s disease with debilitating symptoms unrelieved by standard treatments or medications.
- Hepatitis C with debilitating nausea or intractable pain unrelieved by standard treatments or medications.
- Diseases, including anorexia, which result in nausea, vomiting, wasting, appetite loss, cramping, seizures, muscle spasms, or spasticity, when these symptoms are unrelieved by standard treatments or medications.
- Chronic renal failure requiring hemodialysis.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Traumatic brain injury.
More information about qualifying conditions can be found on Washington State Department of Health’s website. Get Your Card
When it comes to smoking marijuana or consuming cannabis products, it’s against the law to light up in any public place. This means that you can’t smoke a joint on the sidewalk, in a state or federal park, or in any other public place, including private property if it’s close enough to a public space where people can smell the smoke. The best places for consumers to light up are in private homes, medical marijuana collective social clubs, or at marijuana friendly hotels. Remember, discretion is key!
Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
To be considered driving under the influence of marijuana, you’ll need to have at least five nanograms per milliliter of THC in your bloodstream. As a driver in Washington, you automatically give your consent for drug testing if you’re arrested. However if you refuse the test, you can still face fines and jail time. Bottom line? Avoid smoking and driving to stay on the right side of the law.
Traveling With or Transporting Marijuana
Transporting marijuana from state to state is illegal, whether crossing state lines in a car or sending a package of marijuana products in the mail. Consumers need to be aware that if a package containing marijuana is mailed, both the send and the receiver can face prosecution from both states.The consequences of breaking these laws could result in fines and up to five years in prison, depending on the amount.
Cultivation of Marijuana
Neither dispensaries, processors, nor private growers are allowed to grow their own marijuana without looking at a hefty fine of up to $10,000 and five years behind bars, regardless of whether or not there is intent to sell.
In fact, the only businesses that are strictly regulated to cultivate marijuana in Washington are licensed grow facilities, who deliver the product to dispensaries after harvest.
Medical marijuana patients, however, can grow their own cannabis. All cardholding patients may cultivate up to 6 plants, and those that get special dispensation from their doctor may grow up to 15 plants. Those that cultivate their own crop will have increased possession limits as well (8oz and 16 oz respectively). Learn to Grow
Consumption by Minors
There’s no way around it. To purchase or smoke marijuana in Washington, you need to be at least 21 years of age or older. If a minor is caught consuming marijuana, they could incur fines, suspension of a driver’s license, and even drug rehab. In fact, minors are not even allowed inside a marijuana dispensary in Washington. Having said this, minors with medical issues can receive a medical marijuana prescription from their doctor.
Legal information about medical and recreational marijuana laws in Washington, including Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma.