Washington Marijuana LegalizationA New “State of Laws”

Marijuana is generally a preparation of a plant from the Cannabis genus that is intended to be used as a drug. It has both medicinal and recreational uses, although its legality varies considerably by state. The state of Washington legalized marijuana for most purposes in November 2012. The use of marijuana on federal property in Washington remains illegal. You can learn about the effects of marijuana here at Blu By the Sea.


The legislation that legalized marijuana in Washington State was  commonly known as I-502. It appeared on the general ballot that went to vote on Nov. 6, 2012. I-502 passed by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent. This ballot had a voter turnout of about 81 percent, which was primarily credited to I-502. The measures in I-502 will gradually go into effect over the next year.


I-502 essentially defines marijuana as any preparation of a cannabis plant that contains at least 0.3 percent of Tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana. This definition means that I-502 does not apply to non-pharmaceutical preparations of cannabis, such as hemp. In practice, marijuana has a much higher potency than the minimum concentration of THC specified by I-502. Marijuana typically contained four percent THC in 1983, which increased to about ten percent by 2007.


The Washington State Liquor Control Board is responsible for regulating marijuana under I-502. Marijuana users in Washington State must be at least 21 years of age and may not possess more than one ounce of usable marijuana. The public use of marijuana is still illegal. I-502 prohibits driving under the influence of marijuana, which it defines as a concentration of at least five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. The state of Washington must establish additional rules regulating the use of marijuana by Dec. 1, 2013.

Sales, Production and Legalization of Marijuana

Retail sales of marijuana will remain illegal until the state of Washington issues sales licenses in 2013. These licenses will initially cost $250 and the annual renewal fee will be $1,000. Retail establishments that sell marijuana will need to be at least 1,000 feet from public schools. The production of marijuana by individuals is still illegal under I-502 when it is grown for recreational purposes. RCW 69.51A, passed in 2010, allows individuals to grow their own marijuana for medical purposes. Marijuana producers and processors may not have a financial interest in marijuana retailers, a system that is already common with alcohol regulation.