Washington Legal Information
In 1998, Washington voters approved state Initiative Measure No. 692, allowing a qualifying patient or designated provider to have a 60-day supply of medical cannabis, later defined as 24 ounces and 15 plants. Qualifying patients and caregivers within those limits are protected from arrest and prosecution; a patient who exceeds those limits is entitled to an affirmative defense of medical necessity. Designated providers must be 18 years of age or older. Dispensaries are not permitted under Washington law, but up to ten (10) patients may participate in a collective garden of 45 plants or less. In 2011, the state legislature changed also the requirements for recommending cannabis to patients; currently, recommendations must be on tamper-resistant paper and include an original signature by the healthcare provider, a date, and a statement that the patient may benefit from the medical use of marijuana. In November 2012, voters passed Initiative 502 relating to the adult use of cannabis, but that law does not directly affect the rights and protections afforded to patients.
In 2015, the state approved SB 5052, which establishes state regulated medical cannabis retail access points utilizing the I-502 retail stores and made significant changes to the state's patient cultivation rights. Collective gardens will no longer be allowed as of July 2016, but can apply to form non-commercial cooperatives to provide an alternative to access from retail stores.
In This Section
View and print the Washington MMJ State Report Card from our latest report: Medical Marijuana Access in the U.S. A Patient-Focused Analysis of the Patchwork of State Laws.
Washington’s medical marijuana law took effect in 1998. It allows licensed health care professionals to recommend the use of cannabis for patients with a variety of medical conditions, providing legal protection for patients who grow or possess no more than 24 ounces and 15 plants. This section includes actual text of the legislation, a brief summary of the law and links to general resources for patients, providers and health care practitioners.
This manual will guide you through defending a medical marijuana case in Washington State. As you probably know, in 1998, Washington voters passed the Medical Use of Marijuana Act, providing an affirmative defense to qualifying medical marijuana patients, doctors, and primary caregivers. The Act was codified as RCW 69.51A.
Unfortunately, patients, caregivers, and providers are still vulnerable to federal and state arrests, prosecutions, and incarceration. They also suffer pervasive discrimination in employment, child custody, housing, public accommodation, education and medical care. If you are arrested for a marijuana offense and the prosecutor files charges, you will first face an arraignment, where you will plead guilty or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, you will have various motions hearings and eventually you may go to trial before a jury or judge, and the process may take a significant amount of time.
To become a medical cannabis patient, a person must suffer from a terminal or debilitating condition and be a resident of Washington state at the time of diagnosis. Some of the qualifying conditions include cancer, HIV/AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, Glaucoma, Crohn’s Disease, Hepatitis C and epilepsy. This section includes an overview of state requirements for qualifying patients and links to other helpful information.
Health care professionals recommending medical cannabis must be licensed to practice medicine in the State of Washington. Physicians, physician’s assistants, naturopaths and advanced registered nurse practitioners have the authority to recommend medical cannabis. This section includes an overview of state requirements for recommending clinicians and links to other helpful information.
Every state has varying laws and regulations for caregivers, cultivators and medical cannabis providers. In Washington, patients may legally designate a provider to cultivate on their behalf or become a participating member of a collective garden. This section includes an overview of state requirements for designated providers and collective gardens, as well as links to other helpful resources.