Cannabis goes by so many names -- Mary Jane, weed, pot, bud, herb -- but is most commonly known as marijuana. Whether you live in a state where it’s legal to toke or you’re a veteran of the drug war, marijuana laws in each state are very different. Before you take a hit in the Evergreen State (in more ways than one), you should get to know Washington’s marijuana laws.
What the Washington Medical Marijuana Act Says
In the state of Washington, there is no official medical marijuana card. In order to use the herb medicinally, you must be a qualifying medical marijuana patient and have a written recommendation from your doctor or other healthcare provider who is licensed in the state.The written recommendation from your healthcare provider must be on tamper-proof paper, contain an original signature, be dated, and advise that in the healthcare provider’s professional opinion, you would benefit from the medical use of marijuana.
What the Washington Recreational Marijuana Law Says
In July 2014, Initiative 502 legalized recreational marijuana sales. Anyone aged 21 or older may now legally possess marijuana paraphernalia and may legally possess and use marijuana in certain amounts (Sec. 69.50.4013). Here is a breakdown of Washington's marijuana laws:
Anyone 21 or Older May Legally Possess and Use (Sec. 69.50.360):
- 1 ounce of marijuana flower (28 grams)
- 7 grams of marijuana concentrate/extract for inhalation
- 16 ounces of marijuana infused product in solid form
- 72 ounces of marijuana infused product in liquid form
Still Against the Law:
- Public use: possessing or using the amounts listed above in public is a civil infraction punishable by a $100 fine (Sec. 69.51A.060)
- Possession of 1 oz - 40 g: possessing or using 1 oz - 40 g of marijuana flower is a misdemeanor, punishable by at least 24 hours in jail, up to 90 days, and punishable by a $1,000 fine (Sec. 69.50.4014, Sec. 9A.20.021)
- Possession of over 40 g: possessing over 40 g of marijuana flower is a class C felony punishable by 5 years in jail and/or a fine up to $10,000. If it is your first offense, you will be fined an addition $1,000. For repeat offenders, the additional mandatory fine is $2,000 (Sec. 9A.20.021)
- Distribution or sale of synthetic marijuana: distributing, dispensing, manufacturing, displaying for sale, offering for sale, attempting to sell, or selling to a buyer any product that contains any amount of synthetic marijuana may be fined $ 10,000 - $500,000. If you break this law and the buyer is under 18 and you are at least 2 years older than the buyer, you will be fined at least $25,000 (Sec. 69.50.430)
- Distribution or sale of marijuana: distribution or sale of any amount of marijuana by a person who does not have a license to do so remains a felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. You may additionally be fined $1,000 if this is your first offense, or $2,000 if you are a repeat offender (Sec. 69.50.401)
- Growing marijuana: Growing marijuana without a license is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail and a fine up to $10,000. The same additional fine as for distribution applies (Sec. 69.50.401)
- Driving under the influence: driving with a THC (main active component of marijuana) concentration of 5.00 ng or higher is punishable by up to 1 year in jail a fine of up to $5,000 for first offenders (Sec. 46.61.502). Marijuana must be stored in a sealed container out of the driver's reach (Sec. 46.61.745). Keep in mind that a medical marijuana recommendation is not a defense to a drugged driving charge.
Civil Liability for Selling Marijuana to a Minor:
- Sale to a minor: if your child is under 18, Washington law lets you sue the person who sold or gave your child weed for money damages to pay for any treatment or rehab (Sec. 69.50.414)
Read the full text of the compiled Washington Statutes for more details.
Federal Marijuana Laws
Keep in mind that even though many forms of recreational use and medical use of marijuana are now legal in Washington, the federal government continues to criminalize possession; cultivation and production; possession for sale, sale or delivery for sale; and possession of paraphernalia. In August of 2013, in response to multiple states legalizing marijuana use, the Department of Justice announced that it was changing its enforcement efforts. Some of these changes include:
- Preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors
- Preventing marijuana revenue from funding gangs and other criminal enterprises
- Preventing trafficking of marijuana from states where it is legal to other states
- Preventing drugged driving
I Was Caught Growing Marijuana: What's Next?
If you were caught growing marijuana in Washington without a license and you do not have a medical authorization, you may be charged with a felony and sentenced up to 5 years in jail and fined up to $10,000 (Sec. 69.50.401). If you do have a medical authorization, you may legally own up to 15 cannabis plants and no more than 24 ounces of usable cannabis (Sec. 69.51A.040). If you were caught growing marijuana in Washington and you have a medical authorization, a Washington attorney may be able to help you avoid jail time.
Speak to an Experienced Medical Marijuana Attorney Today
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified medical marijuana lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local medical marijuana attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.