On December 6, 2012, Washington became the first U.S. state to legalize recreational use of marijuana, and the second in recreational marijuana sales. The state had previously legalized medical marijuana in 1998. Under state law, cannabis is legal for medical purposes and for any purpose by adults over 21. Still, the law can be confusing to those not familiar with reading legal documents. Here’s a summary of what is legal in Washington relating to marijuana usage and possession. It’s important to note however, that with marijuana still illegal in bordering states, it is vital to research your home state laws if you reside outside of Washington and wish to consume marijuana products.
Initiative 502 Decriminalized Marijuana In Washington, But With Restrictions
Marijuana is defined by Washington state law as all parts of the plant cannabis, whether growing or not, with a THC concentration greater than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. Washington Initiative 502 legalized marijuana use for adults; however, there are still a number of restrictions. It is important for you to be aware of the following:
Only adults age 21 and older can purchase and possess marijuana. Significant civil and criminal penalties are levied on those who purchase or possess marijuana under the age of 21.
Adults age 21 and over can purchase up to one ounce of useable marijuana (the harvested flowers, or “bud”), 16 ounces of marijuana-infused edibles in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form, and 7 grams of marijuana concentrates.
Marijuana can only be sold and purchased at state-licensed retail stores. A valid photo ID is required, and no one under 21 is allowed on the retail premises. Many retail marijuana stores only accept cash. The sale of marijuana outside of a state-licensed retail store is prohibited.
It is illegal to operate a vehicle under the influence of marijuana if you have more than 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. Doing so may result in significant legal penalties. The conventional wisdom from toxicologist is that you would be under 5 nanograms about 2-3 hours after consuming a joint. However, much of this has been debunked and several studies have shown that chronic cannabis users can show up with over 5 nanograms, days after their last use. There has been little done in legislature to correct this draconian law that has little foundation in science. Be careful if you consume cannabis regularly.
Public Use, Traveling
It is illegal to consume marijuana in view of the public and to take marijuana outside of Washington. Doing so may result in significant legal penalties. Over 1/3 of Washington state is covered in Federal Land and you can find yourself driving down a highway and, without warning, you are now subject to Federal Prosecution. Old article on the subject but it is still happening today.
Marijuana usage in Washington has seen a steady increase since it’s legalization. With that increase in usage, changes to the law should become necessary. If you are a current marijuana user in Washington, or are considering consuming the drug in the future, it is important to know the current law and to stay on top of any changes which could affect marijuana’s legal status. Before consuming any drug, it is recommended to research whether that drug is right for you.