Washington Legislature fine tunes successful cannabis programs


Last update: March 24, 2016


In addition to being a medical marijuana state, Washington is one of four states to have ended marijuana prohibition for all adults by legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana sales for adults 21 and over. Since voters approved the ballot initiative in 2012, crime is down, the economy is booming, and now the state is expected to earn $1 billion in tax revenue over the next four years. There is mounting evidence that the underground marijuana market is being displaced, and since legalization passed, law enforcement spends less time and resources on low-level marijuana offenses.

State lawmakers introduced over two dozen bills in 2016 that would have further improved and refined – not restricted or diminished – the popular state program. Unfortunately, strong disagreements over the budget and a short session in 2016 did not leave much time for lawmakers to address marijuana-related laws. The regular session wrapped up on March 10 with only five marijuana policy bills passing. Two of them were vetoed because they passed after the regular session wrapped up. The three that currently await the governor’s signature make modest improvements. While many of the cannabis bills this year remain technically alive during the current 60-day special session, they are not expected to advance further as lawmakers address the state budget.

While Washington has made tremendous strides in recent years, there is room for improvement. Despite the fact that law enforcement spends only a small fraction of its time on low-level marijuana matters compared with previous years, African Americans are still twice as likely to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses as whites. These and other issues — including the lack of a place to consume cannabis, such as cafes — will have to wait until next year’s session.

Stay connected


Thank you for supporting the Marijuana Policy Project and all of our allies. If you have questions about marijuana policy reform in Washington, please contact us by email at [email protected] for more information. Don’t forget to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service, if you haven’t done so already.

Pending Legislation