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Washington: Medical Marijuana Law Overview and State Fines/Penalties - Archive

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Julie Gardener

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Washington Medical Marijuana Overview​

SUMMARY: Fifty-nine percent of voters approved Measure 692 on November 3, 1998. The law took effect on that day. It removes state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess "valid documentation" from their physician affirming that he or she suffers from a debilitating condition and that the "potential benefits of the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks." Patients diagnosed with the following illnesses are afforded legal protection under this act: cachexia; cancer; HIV or AIDS; epilepsy; glaucoma; intractable pain (defined as pain unrelieved by standard treatment or medications); and multiple sclerosis. Other conditions are subject to approval by the Washington Board of Health. Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess or cultivate no more than a 60-day supply of marijuana. The law does not establish a state-run patient registry.

The medical use provisions in Washington do not include reciprocity provisions protecting visitors from other medical use states.


Senate Bill 6032, mandated the Department of Health to "adopt rules defining the quantity of marijuana that could reasonably be presumed to be a sixty-day supply for qualifying patients." In October 2008, the department finalized guidelines allowing patients to cultivate up to 15 cannabis plants and/or possess up to 24 ounces of usable marijuana. The new limits took effect on November 2, 2008.

Patients who possess larger quantities of cannabis than those approved by the Department will continue to receive legal protection under the law if they present evidence indicating that they require such amounts to adequately treat their qualifying medical condition.

Senate Bill 6032 also affirmed changes previously recommended by the state's Medical Quality Assurance Commission to expand the state's list of qualifying conditions to include Crohn's disease, hepatitis c, and any "diseases, including anorexia, which results in nausea, vomiting, wasting, appetite loss, cramping, seizures, muscle spasms, and/or spasticity, when these symptoms are unrelieved by standard treatments or medications."

It also limits the ability of police to seize medicinal cannabis that is "determined ... [to be] possessed lawfully [by an authorized patients] under the ... law."


Senate Bill 5798 allows additional health care professionals including naturopaths, physician’s assistants, osteopathic physicians, osteopathic physicians assistants, and advanced registered nurse practitioners to legally recommend marijuana therapy to their patients. The new law will take effect on June 10, 2010.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA STATUTES: Wash. Rev. Code §§ 69.51A - 69.51A.901 (2007).

POSSESSION/CULTIVATION: A qualifying patient and designated provider may possess a total of no more than twenty-four ounces of usable marijuana, and no more than fifteen plants. This quantity became the state's official "60-day supply" on Nov. 2, 2008.

• 24 oz usable; 15 plants

CAREGIVERS: Yes. Designated provider is a person who has been designated in writing by a patient to serve as a designated provider. The caregiver must be 18 years of age or older. The designated provider is prohibited from consuming marijuana obtained for the personal, medical use of the patient for whom the individual is acting as designated provider. The designated provider may be the primary caregiver for only one patient at any one time. Wash. Rev. Code §§69.51A.010, 69.51A.040 (2007).

For further information and Becoming a Patient in Washington

CONTACT INFORMATION: Fact sheets outlining Washington’s medical marijuana law are available from:

Washington State Department of Health
101 Israel Road SE
Tumwater, WA 98501
(800) 525-0127
Attention: Glenda Moore
Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Home Page

ACLU of Washington, Drug Reform Project
(206) 624-2184

Washington Marijuana Penalties​


♦ Less than 40 g - misdemeanor*MMS 1 Day - maximum Incarceration 90 days Fine $250-$500

♦ 40 g or more - felony Incarceration 5 years maximum Fine $10,000

Sale or Cultivation

♦ Less than 40 g - felony Incarceration 0 - 6 months Fine$10,000

♦ 40 g or more - felony Incarceration 5 years maximum Fine$10,000

♦ Sale to minor at least 3 years younger than seller - felony Incarceration double penalty
Fine double penalty

Miscellaneous (paraphernalia, license suspensions, drug tax stamps, etc...)

♦ Dirty paraphernalia possession, manufacture or delivery - misdemeanor* Incarceration 90 days Fine $1,000

*Any convictions of a misdemeanor carry a 24-hour mandatory minimum sentence and a mandatory minimum fine of $250.

♦ For subsequent convictions the possible prison sentence doubles.

♦ Any conviction of a juvenile causes driver's license suspension for 1 year.


♦ Possession of less than 40 grams is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000. For amounts of 40 grams or more the penalties increase to up to five years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

♦ Cultivation, delivery or sale of marijuana is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

♦ Any sale to a minor at least three years younger than the offender doubles the possible penalties.

♦ It is an affirmative defense to violations of marijuana-related laws that the person, possessing no more than is necessary for personal medical use for up to sixty days, has valid documentation and meets all criteria as a qualifying patient or as a primary caregiver.

♦ Possession, manufacture or delivery of paraphernalia is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

♦ Any convictions of a misdemeanor carry a 24-hour mandatory minimum jail sentence and a mandatory minimum fine of $250.

For any subsequent convictions the possible prison sentence doubles.
For drug offense convictions of juveniles, the offender's driver's license is suspended for one year.

Mandatory minimum sentence: When someone is convicted of an offense punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence, the judge must sentence the defendant to the mandatory minimum sentence or to a higher sentence. The judge has no power to sentence the defendant to less time than the mandatory minimum. A prisoner serving an MMS for a federal offense and for most state offenses will not be eligible for parole. Even peaceful marijuana smokers sentenced to "life MMS" must serve a life sentence with no chance of parole.

Medical marijuana: This state has medical marijuana laws enacted. Modern research suggests that cannabis is a valuable aid in the treatment of a wide range of clinical applications. These include pain relief, nausea, spasticity, glaucoma, and movement disorders. Marijuana is also a powerful appetite stimulant and
emerging research suggests that marijuana's medicinal properties may protect the body against some types of malignant tumors, and are neuroprotective.

Warning: The information contained in this report is for informational purposes only. Individuals are encouraged to confirm their state's laws before engaging in any particular behavior, or before going to court without a lawyer. Marijuana laws and penalties change rapidly and are enforced and interpreted differently even in the same legal jurisdiction. Please consult a criminal defense lawyer if you have been busted or if you want to know how a particular conduct might be punished. If you spot an error or have information that should be included please let us know.

Source: NORML

Be informed and be well.

See Washington: Medical Marijuana Law Overview and State Fines/Penalties for more up to date information regarding state laws and penalties.
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