Is Recreational Weed Legal in Washington State?

Medically reviewed by Alexander Tabibi, MD
August 19, 2021
Washington Recreational Cannabis
Washington Recreational Cannabis

Recreational weed/marijuana has been legal in the state of Washington since 2015, for adult users 21 or older.  The Evergreen State allows adult residents from places such as Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and even Spokane to visit dispensaries to purchase marijuana without requiring a medical card.


History of Weed Laws

In 1998, Washington legalized medical marijuana under Initiative 692 (I-692), known as the Medical Use of Marijuana Act of 1998.  It was passed with 60% of the vote, determining a list of qualifying conditions under which medical marijuana would be appropriate for patients.  It went further to provide certain legal protections to patients approved for the program. All while setting up a system to allow caregivers to act on patients’ behalf.


In 2012, voters passed Initiative 502 (1-502), or the Washington Legalization and Regulation Initiative, with 55% of the vote.  This effectively legalized marijuana use for adults 21 or older without a medical card.  It also led to the development of a state-run regulatory system for the marijuana market in order to set up safe and legal retail establishments for recreational users.


In 2015, Washington passed SB 5052, Cannabis Patient Protection Act. This bill initiated tighter regulations on the medical marijuana market to ensure safety for patients and protection for businesses.  Currently, the recreational market is regulated by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.


Where Can a Person Legally Purchase Weed in Washington?

Washington law requires that both medical and recreational users only purchase cannabis from a state-licensed dispensary.  All cannabis products sold for recreational purchases are subject to a 37% excise tax, on top of state and local taxes which can vary from area to area, while medical patients are except from paying these taxes. 


Where Can Cannabis Legally Be Used?

Cannabis products cannot be consumed within public view, and therefore can only be used on private property out of public view.  It is strictly illegal to vape or smoke cannabis in areas in which tobacco smoking is prohibited, as a person who violates this can face criminal charges.  Also, driving while under the influence can lead to major criminal charges.


Possession Laws

Washington State allows recreational adult users of at least 21 years of age to possess up to 1 ounce of usable marijuana, 16 ounces of solid edibles, 72 ounces of liquid cannabis products and 7 grams of concentrates.  Medical patients can possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana, 48 ounces of solid products, 1.69 gallons of liquid products and 21 grams of concentrates.  It is illegal to transport cannabis outside of the state.


Can Residents Grow Their Own?

Currently, it is illegal for recreational users to grow their own cannabis at home.  But, medical patients are legally permitted to grow up to 6 plants.  A healthcare provider can request on a patient’s behalf that they grow up to 15 plants if they feel that this will benefit their treatment.


Medical Marijuana

The medical marijuana program in Washington requires that patients apply for an ID card which, for adults is valid for a year, and is valid for 6 months if the patient is a minor.  The medical marijuana ID card is valid at any state-licensed dispensary.


Qualifying Conditions:

  • Anorexia
  • Appetite loss
  • Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
  • Cancer
  • Chronic renal failure requiring hemodialysis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Epilepsy or other seizure disorders
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • Intractable pain
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Nausea
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Spasticity disorders
  • Traumatic brain injury


Washington is one of the few states that does not recognize mental health disorders as qualifications for medical marijuana.  Patients cannot petition to add other qualifying conditions.


Patient Qualifications:

To qualify for medical marijuana, a patient must receive certification from one the approved categories of healthcare professionals: medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, physician assistants, osteopathic physician assistants, naturopathic physicians, and advanced registered nurse practitioners.


How to Register for Medical Marijuana in Washington

Once a patient has a certification from their approved healthcare provider, they must submit an application form to them, and then register with the state’s Medical Marijuana Authorization Database.  Patients below the age of 18 can designate a caregiver, which is referred to in the state as a designated provider.


Qualifying as a Caregiver

A caregiver, also referred to as a designated provider, must be at least 21 years of age, and can only care for one patient at a time.  Patients may only have one caregiver.


Registering as a Caregiver

To register as a caregiver, the patient must first designate you in their application form.  You must also fill out a separate application along with providing your state-issued ID.  You will receive a medical marijuana card to be used on the patient’s behalf.


Reciprocity Laws

The state of Washington does not observe reciprocity laws for medical patients, but adult recreational users from out of state who are 21 or older can purchase from state-licensed dispensaries.


Licensing Laws

All cannabis sold in Washington must be tested by a third-party laboratory licensed through the state.  A complete analysis will be done to show the cannabinoid and terpene profiles, impurity levels, presence of contaminants, microbial content, etc.


Frequently Asked Questions

#1: Where Can I Buy Weed in Washington?

Weed has been legal in Washington for several years, both for adult recreational and medical users, which means it’s relatively easy to find a dispensary regardless of your medical status.


#2: Is Dabbing Legal in Washington?

Dabbing is legal in the state of Washington.  Concentrates are sold by dispensaries and can be lawfully consumed in private settings.


#3: Can I Have Weed Delivered to My Home?

Washington does not permit dispensaries and other retailers to deliver to user’s homes, whether the users are medical patients or recreational users.  The state strictly enforces this and penalizes business owners who break this rule.


#4: Can I Use Cannabis in Public?

This state does not allow cannabis users to consume in public, as it must be done on private property and out of public view.  Smoking or vaping weed where regular smoking is prohibited can lead to criminal charges.


#5: Can I Buy Weed as an Outside Visitor?

WA does not allow out-of-state medical patients to purchase cannabis in state-licensed dispensaries.  However, adults 21 or older can purchase cannabis in recreational dispensaries even if they are visiting from out of state.


#6: Can I Grow My Own Marijuana?

At the moment, you can only grow marijuana if you are a medical patient who has been given approval to do so.  Recreational users are not permitted to grow their own cannabis at home.