On November 6, 2012, voters in Washington chose a new approach to their state’s marijuana policies. By a margin of 56 – 44%, Washington voters replaced marijuana prohibition with a model that legalizes marijuana for adults and taxes and regulates it like alcohol. The new law took effect on December 6, 2012, and the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board spent much of 2013 drafting rules and regulations for the operation of marijuana businesses and the issuance of business licenses to three types of marijuana establishments: marijuana producers, marijuana processors, and marijuana retailers. The first retailers opened on July 8, 2014. Below is a detailed overview of the new law and regulations.
At a glance: The 30,000-foot view of the new law is fairly straightforward. I-502 removed all penalties — criminal and civil — for the use and possession of a limited amount of marijuana by adults 21 and older. Unlike Colorado’s law, Washington’s law does not allow adults to cultivate marijuana for their own personal use. However, the law directed the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board to develop rules to regulate marijuana businesses. While I-502 made no changes to the medical marijuana law, legislation enacted in July 2015 made significant changes to the state’s medical marijuana program by folding it in with the licensed and regulated cultivation and distribution systems set up as a result of passage of I-502. Laws prohibiting the possession, use, and cultivation of marijuana by individuals under 21 remain intact.
Marijuana laws for those 21 and over: Adults 21 and over in Washington can now possess and use up to one ounce of marijuana without violating state law. In addition to allowing marijuana possession and use, I-502 allows adults 21 and older to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused products in edible form, and 72ounces of marijuana products in liquid form from licensed marijuana retailers. I-502 did not alter federal law. The federal government has made it clear it intends to enforce its prohibition on use, possession, cultivation, distribution, and transportation of marijuana on federal lands.
Cultivation, testing, and retail sales of marijuana: I-502 required the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board to develop regulations governing the commercial manufacture, cultivation, and sale of marijuana. The number of retail store licenses issued was determined by a formula that distributes the number of locations in proportion to the populous cities within each county. There were no limits on producer and processor licenses. As of August 18, 2015, 159 retail licenses, 519 producer licenses, and 433 processor licenses were issued and active. The department’s extensive rules govern everything from the process for issuing a new license to a marijuana business to signage requirements. Below is an overview of the most vital rules, organized by topic. To read the full rules, please visit the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board’s website.
Marijuana license qualifications and application process
Reasons the board may deny, suspend, or cancel a marijuana licensee’s application or license
Marijuana producer license, requirements, and fees
Marijuana processor license, requirements, and fees
Marijuana retailer license, requirements, and fees
Fertilizers and other soil amendments
Tax and reporting requirements
Marijuana servings and transaction limitations
Marijuana waste disposal
Quality assurance testing
Packaging and labeling
In addition to the labeling requirements for marijuana-infused products, concentrates sold at retail must be labeled with statements warning the purchaser that marijuana can impair judgment and concentration; that intoxicating effects may be delayed by two or more hours; that any pesticides were applied during growing; and stating what solvents, chemicals, or components were used in the extraction process.
Changes to business structure
Hours of operation
Objections to marijuana licenses
Administrative enforcement procedures
Washington's I-502 PDF