Marijuana is legal for adults and is taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol; state also has a medical marijuana law
Last update: August 22, 2023
Washington Celebrates Over 10 Years of Legalization
Washington State became one of the first two states, alongside Colorado, to legalize adult-use cannabis in November 2012 when voters approved I-502. In addition to legalizing possession of up to an ounce of cannabis for adults 21 and older, the initiative regulates and taxes cannabis production and distribution. The first legal cannabis sales began in July 2014.
Meanwhile, voters legalized the medical use of cannabis in Washington state back in 1998. Patients are allowed to grow four plants at home, or up to 15 per household with registration from the state. You can find more detailed information on Washington State’s medical program.
Washington is still one of the only legalization states, along with Illinois and New Jersey, where home cultivation for adult use remains prohibited; and it is the only legal state where the practice is a felony. Please reach out to your legislators and urge them to bring support for home cultivation.
Governor Inslee Signs Three Bills to Improve Cannabis Policies!
In the spring of 2023, Governor Jay Inslee (D) signed three bills to better regulate and accommodate the cannabis industry and its consumers! SB 5123 bars most employers from discriminating against a person in hiring based on their cannabis use, SB 5080 improves the state’s social equity licensing, and SB 5069 enables interstate commerce once federally legal.
Here’s what you need to know:
SB 5123, sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser (D), bars most employers from discriminating against applicants for their cannabis use outside of work hours and for testing positive for non-psychoactive metabolites. Workers could still be fired for testing positive for THC after they are hired. Washington joins several other states, including California and Nevada, in restricting pre-employment screening. The bill goes into effect on January 1, 2024.
SB 5080, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D), streamlines and improves Washington’s social equity program. This allows regulators to offer additional social equity licenses based on census and population data, and create 200 additional licenses to grow and sell cannabis.
SB 5069 enables businesses in the state to import and export marijuana products. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ann Rivers (R), gives the governor the authority to enter into agreements with other legal states to permit interstate trade between licensed cannabis companies. This bill only takes effectwhen there’s a federal law change “to allow for the interstate transfer of cannabis” between legal businesses.
Work Remains To Be Done in Washington
Only licensed producers can legally cultivate cannabis plants for adult use in Washington. A person who grows cannabis for personal use in Washington state would be committing a class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.
Most legal adult-use states in America allow for some form of home cultivation. Yet, Washington politicians have repeatedly rejected efforts to adopt policies similar to other legal states.
State lawmakers have introduced nearly a half-dozen bills to allow adults to grow plants for personal use, all to no avail. In 2023, Rep. Shelley Kloba’s House Bill 1614 was the latest effort to allow Washington State adults to grow cannabis at home. In early 2023, Democrats pulled the bill from consideration during a House Appropriations Committee meeting on the final day before a key deadline, killing the bill for the 2023 legislative session. While home cultivation fell short, the legislature moved forward with several other reforms to improve Washington's cannabis laws.
Washington State also lags behind several other legalization states in other areas. It’s one of only two legal states that still penalizes people under the age of 21 with possible jail time and a life-altering criminal conviction — rather than a civil fine — for simple possession. And while the 2023 employment bill represents progress, it only applies to the job application stage — and has several exceptions. Workers shouldn’t be fired for relaxing with cannabis off-hours. And while Washington lawmakers have improved the state’s expungement law, it still doesn’t go far enough.
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Fifteen states have now legalized cannabis for adults’ use, and Washington is one of only three that does not yet allow home cultivation. Fortunately, a new bill has been introduced in Olympia that would legalize home cultivation of up to six plants per adult and 15 per household.