Recreational Marijuana in Washington State
TripSavvy / Rob Hadley
Washington visitors interested in using marijuana products should be aware of the details of the law regarding purchase, possession, and consumption. There are still significant restrictions on pot possession and use, as well as many practical details to be worked out about how the law will actually be implemented as many of Washington’s weed tourism services, are still being developed.
Washington State’s Initiative 502 (I-502), which decriminalizes recreational marijuana, was voted into law in November 2012. The law allows the creation of a licensed and regulated system of marijuana production and distribution, similar to the state’s liquor controls. However, I-502 does not preempt federal law. The production, distribution, sale, possession, and use of marijuana is still against and may be prosecuted under US federal law, and marijuana use is prohibited by many employers.
Keep in mind that in order to legally consume marijuana, you must be at least 21 years old. Here are some things Washington State visitors should know to stay on the right side of state law regarding recreational marijuana.
Buying Legally: Dispensaries and Shops
A few licensed retail marijuana shops are now open for business, with more opening all the time. These shops are devoted only to marijuana and marijuana products and will not sell anything else, but cannabis sampling or consumption is not allowed on the premises. Liquor stores, convenience stores, and other existing businesses will not be allowed to add pot products to their offerings.
If you’re looking for a dispensary, the easiest way to do so is to use the Leafly Store Finder app, which provides an interactive map to current marijuana retailers with detailed information about the various strains available in the shop. You can also check out the Washington State Liquor Control Board’s list of Issued Retail Licenses, which has the information for all marijuana license applicants, including the names, addresses, and phone numbers of active and pending retailers.
Where to Smoke: Private Property
When it comes time to actually consume your marijuana products, there are few places you’re legally allowed to do so in Washington State, despite the law allowing you to buy, possess, and use it. City and state laws prohibit use in the view of the public, so your best bet is to smoke on private property.
What this means, typically, is that you have to be in someone’s private residence and have permission to smoke. However, if you find yourself in a hotel that allows smoking in the rooms, you are legally allowed to smoke marijuana there.
How Much You Can Buy: Legal Quantities
If you are 21 years of age or older in Washington State, you will not be prosecuted under state law for the possession or use of:
- One ounce of usable marijuana
- Marijuana-related paraphernalia
- 16 ounces of solid marijuana-infused product
- 72 ounces of liquid marijuana-infused product
- 7 grams of marijuana concentrate
Legal Terminology: Usable and Marijuana-Infused Products
When it comes to keeping track of your quantities, keep in mind that “usable marijuana,” “marijuana-infused product,” and “marijuana concentrate are all separate things.
According to I-502, “usable marijuana” refers to the dried marijuana flowers. Vaporizers also referred to as vape pens or vapor inhalers, have become popular “smokeless” ways to consume marijuana but still require “useable marijuana.”
On the other hand, marijuana-infused products (both solid and liquid) are defined by I-502 as “products that contain marijuana or marijuana extracts and are intended for human use.” This could include things that you eat or drink, like baked goods, candy, or sodas. The Washington State Liquor Control Board maintains a list of the weed-infused products that are currently approved.Whether you're a weed tourist or just curious about the legality of pot in the state, this guide will help you understand marijuana laws in Washington.
Where to Buy Legal Marijuana in Seattle and Tacoma
Recreational marijuana users can buy weed at retail stores throughout the state. Weed is legal in Washington State as of July 2014 for both medical use (requires a prescription and allows you to grow your own limited number of plants) as well as recreational use (anyone who is 21 or older).
Yes, you can seriously just walk right in to a store. If it’s your first time going to a store, it can feel intimidating, but once you enter, most stores are staffed by knowledgeable staff who can help you understand what your options are. Most stores also have a menu you can check out before you approach the counter to buy as well and some have their menus online at Weedmaps.
When the law first passed, there were very few stores open, but the list of stores is continuing to grow over time as the state eventually plans to license more than 300 stores. There were just 25 retail shops in mid-2014. Starting in July 2016, all stores were required to be registered by the state and there was no longer a division between medical and recreational stores, so recreational users can find the same products that were formerly only available to those with a prescription.
Still, just because pot is legal doesn’t mean it’s a free for all. There are still rules and regulations about how, when and where you can light up or eat an edible. If you’re interested in more about the basic rules to possess and do marijuana, check this list of the basics as well as how to find out more.
Important Things to Know
- For a list of places in Seattle where you can buy pot, see below. For the most complete list of both recreational and medical stores and dispensaries, check Weedmaps as the list can and does change.
- Retail shoppers can buy edibles, pre-rolled joints, buds, extract, CBD oil and extract, and other products.
- Weedmaps.com is a great resource for retail stores and medical dispensaries near you.
- Be aware that in order to legally purchase marijuana in Washington, you must be over the age of 21.
- Your ID will be checked before you can enter the stores.
- Many laws surrounding legal pot are similar to alcohol laws—no one can do it outside in the open, or drive under the influence. So even though you’ve probably seen or smelled someone smoking in public, be aware that can result in a citation.
- Because it’s still federally illegal, most shops also cannot take credit cards due to federal banking regulations so bring cash, just in case.
- And if you’re from another state, bring marijuana out of Washington at your own risk. It’s still illegal in surrounding states and it doesn’t matter if it was legal when you bought it.
- The most you can buy by state law at one time is one ounce, but stores can further limit that amount if they are short on supply.
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