Washington state voters chose to legalize the sale, use, and possession of recreational cannabis in November 2012; and, retail licenses became available for issue in July 2014. Although recreational cannabis was legalized, Washington State chose to maintain separate regulations for the sale, use, and possession of medical use cannabis. As a result, there are essentially three (3) categories for cannabis regulations in Washington state: Recreational, Authorized, and Recognized.
Recreational Marijuana Laws in Washington State
Although the recreational possession limits in Washington State, Oregon, and California are pretty much the same, Washington State home-grow laws are far more restrictive in comparison. Actually, that’s an understatement. Washington recreational home-grow laws aren’t restrictive as much as they are strict. Regulation laws dictate that only medical authorized and/or medically recognized cannabis patients are allowed to grow plants at home. Recreational consumers are not legally allowed to grow — or possess home-grown — cannabis. Not even one (1) plant.
Washington State Recreational Laws versus Oregon and California
Oregon and California, on the other hand, do not prevent consumers from growing their own plants for recreational use. Consumers aged 21 and over are allowed to grow up to four (4) plants in Oregon and up to six (6) plants in California. Possession limits for recreational cannabis in its various forms (dry, solid, liquid, and concentrate) are roughly the same in all three (3) states. There are only two (2) other notable differences between the state regulations. First, Oregon regulations specifically state that recreational consumers are allowed to have up to 1-ounce of bud in public; but, can have up to 8-ounces at home. Second, recreational users in Washington State can have 7-grams of cannabis concentrate, Oregon laws restrict possession limits to 5-grams of concentrate while California limit is extended to 8-grams. I didn’t do enough research to figure out how each state set their concentrate limits, so I’m not sure why it’s so varied.
Authorized Medical Use versus Recognized Medical Use in Washington State
All three (3) states have their own laws and regulations for medical cannabis use and licensing. For the purposes of this article, though, I am not going to go into detail about how Oregon and California medical cannabis laws differ from each other or Washington State. Instead, I am going to focus solely on medical cannabis laws in Washington State.
In Washington state, there are two (2) options for becoming a medical cannabis patient. And although all medical consumers are authorized medical cannabis patients; not all medical cannabis consumers are recognized medical cannabis patients.
Everyone person who wants to have access to medical cannabis in Washington State must get the medical marijuana authorization form signed by a medical provider who is (a) licensed to operate in Washington State; and, (b) is licensed to prescribe medication (i.e., Medical Doctors, Nurse Practitioners, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, etc.).
Once the medical marijuana authorization form has been signed, a patient can go to any of the medically endorsed dispensaries in Washington State. At the medically endorsed dispensary, a patient can choose to join the Washington State Medical Marijuana Authorization Database. Patients who choose to join the database will pay $1 to receive a Medical Marijuana Recognition Card. Patients who join the database also expand their access to cannabis.
For example, consumers who are authorized patients (i.e., patients who only have the signed authorization form) will be allowed to grow up to four (4) plants at home and may possess up to six (6) ounces of usable cannabis. On the other hand, consumers who are recognized patients (i.e., patients who join the database/have a medical marijuana recognition card), (a) are exempt from cannabis sales and use tax; (b) may purchase up to three (3) times the current limit; (c) may purchase high-THC products when available; (d) may possess up to six (6) plants and 8-ounces of usable cannabis; (e) participate in a medical cooperative; (f) have arrest protection; and, (g) can purchase immature plants, clones, and seeds from a state-licensed producer (source).
Why Washington State Needs to Update Its Cannabis Laws
In 2012, Colorado and Washington State became the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Since then, eight (8) other states (Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Vermont) plus the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use (source). All nine (9) locations allow persons aged 21 and over to grow cannabis at home for personal use. However, in Nevada, only people who live 25-miles or further from a dispensary are allowed to grow at home. Otherwise, only medically registered patients are allowed to grow plants. Regardless, Washington State is the only recreationally legal state that does not allow non-medical consumers to grow plants under any circumstances; no exceptions.
Although Washington’s conservative approach to the laws and regulations of recreational cannabis made sense in 2012, it’s time for us to step into the future. We should allow non-medical consumers to grow at least as many plants as those who live in Oregon: up to four (4). Given the precedents set by the majority of other recreationally legal states, four (4) plants isn’t a big ask.