By Lindsey Greto and Meghan King
Public Health – Seattle & King County
Even though retail cannabis is legal in Washington, there’s still a lot to know about its regulations, which can be confusing. We’ve read up on the laws, so you don’t have to:
1. Only people 21 or older can purchase, possess, and use cannabis.
That means cannabis is still illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to use, possess, or purchase. And, it’s illegal for adults to share cannabis with anyone younger than 21. This is important because according to the CDC, cannabis use in adolescence can have long-term effects on the developing brain, hurt their school performance, and put them at greater risk for mental health issues and addiction.
Cannabis consumers should always lock up their stash – that way, kids and pets won’t accidentally eat something that they mistake for a snack. If this happens, call the Washington Poison Center at (800) 222-1222 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435, which are both available 24/7/365.
2. Cannabis must be bought from licensed stores.
Cannabis can only be bought and sold from stores licensed by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. Licensed products have the universal symbol on the original packaging. This is for a consumer’s health and safety – products from licensed producers are tested for contaminants, mold, potency, and more to make sure it’s not synthetic or unsafe.
3. Growing at home for personal use is not allowed.
Anyone who grows cannabis must be medically authorized or licensed by the state as a cannabis producer—otherwise, a personal cannabis garden is breaking the law. Beyond being illegal, home grow can also be associated with problems like mold, mildew, pesticide runoff, break-ins, and easier access for kids.
4. Driving and cannabis do not mix.
It is unsafe and illegal to drive a car, ride a bike, or operate a boat/other machinery while under the influence of cannabis. Driving while under the influence puts the driver and others at serious risk for injury or even death. Plus, people who are pulled over for suspected intoxication can be drug tested and get a DUI.
Cannabis in the car should be kept in its original, unopened package, and out of reach. The same rules apply for passengers: it’s illegal for passengers to use cannabis in the vehicle or have it outside of its original, unopened package.
5. Public places are cannabis-free.
That means it’s illegal to use in a park, at a concert, at a bar, on the sidewalk, in a car, or any other place visible by the general public. “Use” includes smoking, eating, drinking, vaping, or any other method.
It’s also important to know that cannabis is still against federal law, so it’s illegal to use on federal lands like national parks and national forests, as well as navigable waterways – that generally rules out cannabis use when hiking, skiing, or on a cruise. Additionally, cannabis use may not be allowed on some tribal lands: tribes are sovereign nations, so they have their own laws and can prohibit cannabis on their land.
6. Cannabis can only be bought in limited amounts.
Cannabis purchases at licensed stores are limited to:
1 ounce of usable cannabis
16 ounces of cannabis-infused edibles in solid form
72 ounces of cannabis-infused edibles in liquid form
7 grams of cannabis concentrates (e.g., dabs and oil)
7. Cannabis may not be legal in some housing.
Cannabis can only be used in some private spaces: mainly residences where the property owner allows it and some hotel rooms (see more on this in #10). Renters should ask their landlords about their cannabis rules, since landlords can restrict use on their property. Many housing complexes are also smoke-free, meaning they don’t allow any smoked material, including cannabis. Finally, in housing funded by federal sources, it could be illegal to use any form of cannabis.
8. Employers can set their own rules about cannabis.
Employers have the right to prohibit cannabis use amongst their employees. The law does not specifically address drug testing, so employers are still allowed to conduct drug testing.
9. Cannabis stays in Washington.
Cannabis bought in Washington cannot be removed from Washington. It’s illegal to take it across state lines or into another country – even if they also have legal retail cannabis.
10. Hotels can prohibit cannabis use.
Visitors to Washington should check their hotel’s rules for cannabis use. Hotels have a right to prohibit use in their rooms, and most have smoke-free rules (smoke-free policies apply to cannabis as well as tobacco).
Want to learn more about cannabis laws? Go to lcb.wa.gov/mj-education/know-the-law.