Washington Cannabis Laws
Is Cannabis Legal In Washington?
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Is recreational cannabis legal in Washington?
Yes. Recreational adult-use of cannabis is legal in the state. Washington throughout the years, has proven to be one of the most progressive U.S. states in regards to cannabis laws, first moving to decriminalize cannabis in 1971, reducing the crime of possession of 40 grams or less to a misdemeanor.
In 2012, Washington voters passed I-502 to legalize recreational adult-use and sale of cannabis. The initiative made legal possession of up to 1 oz of cannabis for adults, but cultivation, sale, and production did not become lawful until the following year.
The first retail sales for recreational products began in 2014, with sales reaching beyond $1 billion in revenue by 2016. As dictated in I-502, 37% of all recreational sales are taxed and the majority of the revenue is funneled to public health programs. Midwestern states like Michigan and Illinois were influenced by Washington’s cannabis tax when drafting their own regulatory systems, focusing on bringing opportunity and money back to communities where funding is needed.
Is Medical Marijuana legal in Washington?
Yes. Medical Marijuana in Washington first became legal in 1998, with the passing of ballot initiative I-692. At the time of its legalization, the initiative allowed physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients with terminal or debilitating illnesses. The major criticism of the law was that it did not explicitly legalize medical marijuana dispensaries. Before I-692 was expanded, most of the 75 dispensary storefronts in the state were ignored by authorities.
In the following years after multiple amendments, the policy expanded in 2011 allowing registered patients to possess up to 24 oz of the cannabis product and 15 plants. Some of the conditions approved for medical marijuana treatment include/but not limited to:
- Crohn’s Disease
- Intractable Pain
Washinton’s medical marijuana program is one of the most expansive in the nation, allowing treatment to patients with lesser symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, cramping, muscle spasms, and loss of appetite.
Are CBD products legal in Washington?
Yes. Since the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, hemp-derived CBD products are legal under federal law in the United States, as long as they contain at most 0.3% THC.
Any and all CBD in food and drink is still federally illegal.
What’s Washington’s recreational cannabis sales tax?
Sales of recreational products are subject to the state’s retail sales tax of 6.5% on top of the 37% marijuana excise tax. The excessive tax rate accounts for the majority of the state’s revenue of cannabis.
What’s Washington’s medical marijuana sales tax?
Sales of medical marijuana are usually subject to Washington’s retail sales tax of 6.5.%. Some patients and products are exempt. But patients must pay for the 37% marijuana excise tax, whether they are subject to the retail tax or not.
Is cannabis delivery legal in Washington?
Yes and no. Washington law does not prohibit but does not allow cannabis delivery. As of now, dispensaries are working through verbiage loopholes to deliver to customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Washington’s Cannabis Timeline:
1923: Washington bans cannabis.
1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.
1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession.
1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist, was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act because the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth.”) The court penned the unanimous opinion by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.
1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon.
This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions based on its potential for abuse accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and international treaties.
Classification of Controlled Substances:
Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use
Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use
Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
1971: Washington reduced the crime of possession of 40 grams or less to a misdemeanor, and no longer considered the drug to be a narcotic.
1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws designed, including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the death penalty’s promotion to be used against “drug kingpins.”
1998: Washington’s I-692 passed via a ballot initiative allowing physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients with terminal or debilitating illnesses.
1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs.
2011: Washington’s state legislature overhauled its medical marijuana program, only for it to be vetoed by Gov. Gregoire.
2012: Washington voters passed I-502 to legalize recreational adult-use and sale of cannabis.
2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.
2014: Washington’s recreational retail market opens.
2016: Washington Cannabis sales surpass $1billion in revenue.
2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act.