Everything You Wanted to Know about Legal Marijuana in Washington*

Michael P. BrodskyMichael P. Brodsky, Attorney at Law
120 Prospect Street
Bellingham, WA 98225-4300
Phone: (360) 756-5120
Fax: (360) 671-1285

* But were afraid to ask

In 2012 the voters in the State of Washington passed Initiative I-502 which had the effect of creating a legal framework to “license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession for persons over twenty-one; remove state-law criminal and civil penalties for activities that it authorizes; tax marijuana sales; and earmark marijuana-related revenues.”

Here is a quick overview of the effect that the passage of I-502 has had as it’s finally being fully implemented nearly two years after its passage.

What’s legal and what’s not?  What did I-502 change?

Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is now legal in Washington provided you are over the age of 21.  This includes:

  1. One ounce of useable marijuana;
  2. Sixteen ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form; or
  3. Seventy-two ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form.

Is it legal to propagate (grow) marijuana for personal use?

In short, no.  The rules for medical marijuana are different but are beyond the scope of this posting.

Is it legal to bring less than an ounce of marijuana across the Border from Canada to the US?

Marijuana is still illegal under Federal Law and, to varying degrees, in every state except Washington and Colorado.  That means the Feds will consider it illegal if a person entering the US is found to be in possession of any amount of any controlled substance including marijuana.   The question is who will prosecute it? Before I-502 passed, small amounts were referred to the local municipal courts (Blaine, Lynden and Sumas in the Western part of the state) but those courts no longer have jurisdiction to prosecute those cases because it’s no longer a violation of the law.  So at this point it’s unclear what if anything US Border agents will do short of confiscation and destruction.

Where can I smoke or consume my legal marijuana products?

Pretty much, you are limited to the comfort of your own home and property.  RCW § 69.50.445 makes it a class 3 civil (i.e., non-criminal) infraction to “open or consume marijuana, usable marijuana, or a marijuana-infused product, in view of the general public.” This is similar to the prohibitions on opening or consuming alcohol in public codified in RCW 66.44.100.  The question is, what is considered to be “in view of the general public”?  Probably not your fenced back yard.  But what if you yard can be seen from the street?  Your living room that can be seen from the street through a window?  Many of these issues have yet to be defined or clarified. What is clear is that there is no provision for consumption in bars or other establishments open to the public.  And while it may be legal to consume in a motor vehicle particularly one that is parked on private property and has tinted windows (remember that whole “in view of the general public” thing, it’s probably not a good idea since the odor will linger and invite a DUI charge should you be stopped.  More on that in a later posting.

This aspect of the law is particularly problematic for visitors seeking to take advantage of the law.  They generally can’t smoke anything in most hotel rooms or rental cars, let alone marijuana, and we’ve already talked about the problem of using in cars generally.  So there are very limited places they can take advantage of its legality.  The City of Seattle at least seems to have taken notice and may be trying to craft and enforcement or legislative remedy. See  http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Prosecutor-to-drop-all-Seattle-marijuana-tickets-276204811.html