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.
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.
Weed Tourism: Vacation Packages
The availability of legal weed makes Washington State an even more popular tourist destination. As a result, several companies now offer vacation packages, weed-friendly accommodations, and cannabis tours to guide newcomers to the world of legal marijuana.
Kush Tourism offers guided weed tours of Seattle and vacation packages, including several weed-friendly lodging providers around the state. Meanwhile, Seattle Hempfest Events organizes and sponsors several cannabis-themed events throughout the year, including their annual festival each August.
Illegal Weed Use: What Remains Outlawed
Even after I-502 has fully been implemented, the following will continue to be illegal under the Washington State recreational marijuana law:
- Possession of amounts above the defined limit
- Possession by a person under the age of 21 years
- Use in view of the general public, including the opening and/or consumption of a marijuana-infused product
- Transportation of marijuana products to another state
- Driving under the influence of marijuana
- Production or sale without a state license
Washington State visitors should be aware that pot use and possession remains a criminal act on federal lands, which includes the national parks, national forests, and the public lakes. Tribal lands will also enforce their own policies regarding marijuana use and possession. Some cities have also chosen to outlaw pot-related businesses within their boundaries, so retail marijuana stores might not be readily available in some communities.
Developing Culture of Legal Marijuana
The legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington State is very much a social experiment. Practical details will be worked out over time.
Fortunately, there are some resources where you can gain some insight into the many complicated issues. For instance, the Seattle Police Department put out and routinely updates a "practical guide" to what you currently can and cannot do as I-502 is being implemented called "Marijwhatnow?".
Since legalization, many entrepreneurs have moved into the state seeking to start businesses in the burgeoning marijuana industry. Individuals interested in producing, distributing, or selling marijuana products in Washington State are subject to strict controls, the details of which are available through the Washington State Liquor Control Board website.
Medical Marijuana: A Separate Issue
Medical cannabis is addressed separately in Washington State law, which is regulated through the Washington State Department of Health. Like other states that have also legalized recreational use, Washington is still working out the details to attempt to consolidate the policies that apply to recreational and medical weed. However, patients who need cannabinoids for treatment can typically find the products they need at recreational shops, too.
While possession and consumption of pot are now legal in Oregon, there are a few important differences between how to two states have implemented recreational marijuana legalization.
- Because of federal laws and interstate commerce restrictions, you cannot obtain marijuana in one state and transport it into any other state, which includes transportation between Washington and Oregon.
- Oregon allows residents to have up to 4 marijuana plants per residence. Washington does not. The only place to procure recreational pot in a legal manner in Washington is via a licensed retailer.