With the passage of I-502 in the 2012 Washington State election, marijuana became legal in Washington—not just for medical use, but also for recreational use. But what exactly does this mean? Weed is still illegal as far as the United States government is concerned, but Washington and Colorado both have yet to figure out how that will work. It’s certain that this issue will continue to evolve and smooth out as time goes by, but here are a few key notes from the new laws.
Because Washington’s legalization of marijuana contradicts federal laws, it’s possible that there will be major issues implementing I-502.
The new law is similar to alcohol laws—you must be over 21 to use or possess marijuana.
Adults 21 and older can legally have one ounce of marijuana.
You can have this marijuana on your person, but can’t open it, display it, or use it in public.
If you do get caught using weed in public, it will no longer mean an arrest, but instead a civil infraction.
If you are a licensed marijuana grower or seller, you are allowed to grow the plant in your home and/or sell it. There are restrictions on those who sell, including that the sales must be within Washington and that any individual selling must have his or her own license. Licenses must specify the name of only one seller and the location where they will sell. Licenses can only be used by one person.
Separate licenses are required for each seller, each location, and for some different products sold.
Licenses can’t be obtained by anyone under 21 or who hasn’t lived in Washington for at least three months.
Over the next year, the state liquor control board will develop specific rules to monitor marijuana production and sales, including details about the retail outlets, marijuana literature, rules about sanitation/packaging/processing, methods of screening and hiring employees involved in sales, hours and locations of retail outlets that will sell marijuana—as of late 2012, many of these things are not yet outlined.
By December 1, 2013, the state liquor control board must outline rules about licenses, security and safety issues, maximum quantities for retailers, THC concentrations, and more.
Stores that sell marijuana can only sell marijuana, so don’t expect to see pot showing up in the produce section.
You are still not allowed to drive under the influence of anything—marijuana, alcohol, or any other substances.
It’s still illegal to buy marijuana off the street. The new laws only make it legal to buy it from legally licensed distributors.
Retailers won’t be allowed to set up shop within 1,000 feet of anywhere that minors commonly spend time, like schools, community centers or public parks. They also can’t have any fancy signage.
Marijuana retail sales will be taxed at a rate of 25% and the taxes go toward a variety of programs from public education to community health resources.
Much like driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under the influence of pot is also still illegal. If your blood test shows a THC concentration of 5.0 or higher, you will be considered to be driving under the influence.
While the initiative was approved in 2012, the state still needs time to set up actual marijuana retail outlets. Working out details of how this new system will work will be the norm until December 2013.
Read the full I-502 yourself.