Washington State Marijuana Laws: For Non-“Tokers”

Washington State Marijuana Laws: For Non-“Tokers”

Right or wrong, marijuana is here to stay. Legally. Washington has been on the forefront of the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana use. Not only is the marijuana industry now both legal and mainstream—it’s thriving and unbelievably popular. The state of Washington estimates that the taxes on the sale of legal marijuana will exceed $1 billion over the next four years. Because the state has such a financial incentive, its unlikely marijuana will be re-criminalized anytime soon.

Those who have already partaken of these changes may already be familiar with the effects of these new laws and have an understanding of the dos and don’ts. There are certainly countless websites dedicated to understanding the laws. For those who either tolerated the new changes or look upon them in disdain and disgust, you may have questions about how the legalization of marijuana affects you—and what your rights are relative to those around you. Maybe you’re even curious about what you really can do, should you decide to consume marijuana yourself.

What Are Your Rights Relative to Marijuana Use by Others?

  • No Driving Under the Influence: Driving high increases the risk of accidents—it can cause impairment such as slower reaction time and divided attention or distraction. We all have the right to drive on roadways clear of drivers who are under the influence of marijuana. RCW 46.20.308 makes driving under the influence of marijuana a crime. Similar to alcohol, a person under the age of 21 cannot operate a motor vehicle with any marijuana in his or her system. Drivers 21 and older can operate a motor vehicle so long as the marijuana is not in amounts sufficient enough to cause impairment under the law (THC concentration levels greater than 5.00). Persons who violate this right are subject to criminal charges.
  • No Public Smoking: We also all have the right to go out in public and not be exposed to the second hand effects of marijuana smoke or to be in view of those who are smoking marijuana. In Washington, marijuana may only be smoked on private property, outside the view (or smell) of the general public. Though the law is somewhat vague, this may mean that even though a person has the right to smoke marijuana in his or her own backyard, a neighbor may have a right to prevent such smoking if the smoke travels into a neighboring home or backyard.
  • Still Illegal for Minors: We all have the right to demand that minor children not be sold or given marijuana. It remains a felony to sell to furnish marijuana to minors. It is still illegal for minors to possess, smoke, or sell marijuana.
  • Limitations on Advertisements: Along this vein, the state prevents marijuana vendors from “setting up their business within 1000 feet of any elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library, or game arcade that allows minors to enter.” Further, advertisements and signs are also limited—retailers are only allowed a single sign approximately 11 square feet.

So You Want to Give Legalized Marijuana the Ol’ College Try?

Many people experimented with marijuana in their younger years, only to grow up and become law-abiding, successful, criticizes. They’re not against marijuana per se, but it has been “illegal” for so many years, they’re somewhat nervous and hesitant to smoke it again. If you find yourself in this category, here are some things to know (in addition to the information above):

  • It’s More Potent: There are, for the most part, no seeds in the marijuana sold in Washington. This is in stark contrast to the marijuana smoked by baby boomers in the 70s. Today’s marijuana is also several times more potent than the marijuana from generations passed—anywhere from two to seven times more potent. The chemical result: a little bit goes a long way.
  • How Much Can you Have: It is legal for persons 21 years of age and older to legally possess and use one ounce of usable marijuana, seven grams of marijuana concentrate/extract for inhalation, 16 ounces of marijuana infused product in solid form, 72 ounces of marijuana infused product in liquid form, and to also possess marijuana-related drug paraphernalia.
  • Be Safe: As with all things, it’s important to be safe with the rights we enjoy. Just because we have a right to do something, does not mean that we are relieved of the burdens and responsibilities associated with that right. Marijuana can damage lungs and can impede short-term memory. It also crosses the placental barrier—just like alcohol—and can cause problems to unborn babies. Further smoking marijuana increases the risk of injury to those around you—your children and, if you’re driving, other motorists on the roadway. Be responsible.

In summary, Washington’s marijuana laws will probably continue to change and adapt to the needs and wants of the smoking population and the taxing government. Barring federal laws which would somehow trump what the state has done to regulate marijuana within our borders, one thing is nearly certain: legalized marijuana is not going anywhere—except perhaps up in smoke.

Scott Edwards is a resident of Ridgefield and a partner at the Vancouver law firm of Schauermann Thayer Jacobs Staples & Edwards PS. His practice focuses exclusively on representing persons injured by the carelessness of others. In addition to his work with Vancouver Family Magazine, he has authored a safety blog entitled "Make Safe" where he has written about topics aimed at making our communities safer.

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