Learn About Marijuana
Science-based information for the public

Washington State Laws & Regulations

NEW On January 4, 2019, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the Marijuana Justice Intitiative, which offers a pardon to anyone who has an otherwise clean criminal record but with a sole conviction as an adult for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in Washington State. Read more

Non-medical marijuana use was legalized in 2012 through a statewide initiative (Initiative 502). After two years of rules development, the first marijuana retail store opened in July of 2014. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) is the agency responsible for licensing and regulating marijuana businesses.

Marijuana use for medical purposes has been legal in Washington State since 1998, also through a statewide initiative (Initiative 692). Since then, policies regulating medical use have evolved, but complete regulation occurred only in 2015 with the approval of the Cannabis Patient Protection Act (RCW 69.51A) in 2015.  The WA State Department of Health is the state agency responsible for working with patients, caregivers, database, identification cards, and authorizations.

Since July of 2016, both medical and non-medical marijuana can only be purchased in stores licensed by WSLCB.

Timeline of Legislation, I-502

The legalization of marijuana in the state of Washington, via Initiative 502, is the result of a gradual process towards a continually evolving state policy that started in the late 1980s.

As you can see in this timeline developed by University of Washington researcher Katarina Guttmannova, PhD, Washington has been at the forefront of establishing state laws and policies that depart from federal strict prohibition (download pdf).

(Note: Similar timelines are available for 23 other states on our Legalization in U.S. States page.)

Washington Policy Timeline

readmoreRead More: State and national contexts in evaluating cannabis laws: A case study of Washington State. Cambron C, Guttmannova K, Fleming CB. Journal of Drug Issues 2017;47(1):74-90.

Implementation of Non-Medical and Medical Legislation

Non-Medical Marijuana

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) has been one of two global pioneers in implementation and oversight of a legal system for growing, processing, and retailing marijuana for non-medical purposes.

In this video, Rick Garza, Director of WSLCB, talks about the WSLCB's work over the last several years in a presentation at the Symposium on Marijuana in Washington: Shaping a Research Agenda (May 20, 2016, University of Washington).

watch thisWatch This:
Marijuana Legalization: Implementing I-502
(download slides)


Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana regulation in WA was minimal before 2015, when the Washington’s Medical Marijuana Program was developed and implemented under the responsibility of the WA State Department of Health and in partnership with WSLCB.

In this video from the 2016 Symposium on Marijuana in Washington, Chris Baumgartner, Drug Systems Director at the WA State Department of Health talks about the Washington's Medical Marijuana Program rules and implementation process.

watch thisWatch This:
Washington's Medical Marijuana Program
(download slides)

Municipal and Community Regulations Restricting Sales

By the end of 2016, 30% of Washington residents lived in places that had temporarily or permanently banned retail sales. (Dilley et al, 2017)

Washington State marijuana legislation gives communities the right to adopt local zoning ordinances that limit or modify marijuana availability. As of June 2016, 125 municipalities and 30 counties in Washington have passed ordinances restricting marijuana sales at some level.

Counties that have completely prohibited all marijuana businesses as of August 2017: Clark, Franklin, Klickitat, Walla Walla, Yakima.

readmore Read More: Detailed information about local ordinances, including an interactive zoning map, can be found on the Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) page on Marijuana Regulation in Washington State.

Legislation for Consumers

Non-Medical Marijuana

Who can legally purchase and consume marijuana? Expand/Collapse

How much marijuana can one person purchase and carry?  Expand/Collapse

Can people grow their own marijuana?  Expand/Collapse

Can adults use marijuana in public places?  Expand/Collapse

Can marijuana bought in WA be transported to other states where it is legal? Expand/Collapse

Driving while under the influence of marijuana is still illegal in WA State. How is this determined? Expand/Collapse

Medical Marijuana

The medical use of cannabis has been legal in WA State since 1998, and until recently, was poorly regulated. In April of 2015, the Patient Protection Act (SB 5052) was approved, and in July 2016, the medical and non-medical markets merged in the state of Washington.

As with non-medical laws, many people have questions about medical marijuana and what is allowed in WA State. Read below a quick FAQ about of the Medical Cannabis Law or Patient Protection Act (SB 5052). Note that medical marijuana is regulated by the WA State Department of Health (and not WSLCB). For updates, consult the DOH "You and Your Family: Medical Marijuana" page.

Who is allowed to use medicinal cannabis under the current law?  Expand/Collapse

In WA, who can authorize the use of medical marijuana?  Expand/Collapse

Which conditions qualify for medical marijuana authorizations?  Expand/Collapse

What do patients do once they have a written recommendation?  Expand/Collapse

What are the rights of a medical marijuana cardholder?  Expand/Collapse

Legislation for the Marijuana Industry

The WSLCB is the agency responsible for licensing and regulating marijuana businesses. WSLCB keeps the public informed about the industry performance on a weekly basis. Every Wednesday, WSLCB releases updates to their "Marijuana Dashboard," which provides an overview of the marijuana market in Washington, including licensing, production, sales per product, and compliance figures.

Washington State regulations around marijuana cultivation, processing, distribution and sales have been evolving fast. To keep up to date on important rule changes, check in periodically with the WA State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) website. and the WSLCB Data Portal.

Key elements of the Washington legal marijuana industry system:

Workplace and University Policies


Washington's marijuana laws do not address workplace use. Employers have discretion over setting guidelines for worker drug use. For certain professions, such as truck drivers who rely on federally issued commercial driver's licenses, any use of marijuana is generally prohibited. Workplaces with federal contracts may prohibit marijuana use under the federal Drug Free Workplace Act, or risk losing federal funding. For most industries in the state, policies are set by the employer, and having traces of marijuana in your system can still be grounds for termination. Learn more: Marijuana in the Workplace (MRSC).

Major Washington Universities