Is Marijuana Legal in Washington State?

Washington State is within the United States of America, so the short answer is NO.  Marijuana is currently a Schedule I drug, federally. Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. “Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.” Marijuana is included in this federal definition of Schedule I drugs.

The Federal Government penalty schemes on the books for possession, distribution, and cultivation of Schedule I drugs, including marijuana, vary but are largely federal felonies.  A third possession offense can be a federal felony that comes with three years jail and a $5,000 fine.  Sale/Distribution of any amount under 50kg is a felony that could land you in jail for five years and cost $250,000 in fines. Sale of 1,000kg could come with life in prison and $1,000,000 fine. Growing 49 plants is a felony that could land you in jail five years and cost $250,000. Get caught growing more than 1,000 plants and it might cost you $1,000,000 and life in prison.

The Supremacy Clause of U.S. Const., art. VI, grants Congress the power to preempt state law. State law that conflicts with a federal statute is without effect. It is extremely important to remember this. If you choose to put stock into the promises made by any federal politicians about their future behaviors on this issue, you do so at your own peril.  As long as marijuana’s classification remains constant federally, the feds can come in, smash and grab, and shut things down. Their laws, as they exist currently, have teeth.

Regardless of Washington State Law, all possession/distribution/cultivation of marijuana is still federally illegal within the State of Washington. Shall we discuss Washington State Law then? Before voters voted on I-692 which brought about medical marijuana laws in Washington in 1998, all small possession/distribution/cultivation of marijuana was a crime. Afterwards, it was STILL a crime, but an affirmative defense was afforded to qualifying medical patients/designated providers. This simply put an opportunity to agree to the crime alleged, but present other facts that will defeat or reduce the prosecutor’s claims (legitimate ‘green card’, permission from a doctor, etc.).

Some of the interesting results of the Washington State Medical Marijuana legislation were the significant amounts determined to be a ’60 day supply.’ Legitimate patients were allowed to grow 15 plants at a time, and carry 24 ounces on their person. This also applied to designated providers. Collective gardens were defined and began growing 45 plants at a time. The Seattle market, and the dispensaries that popped up for convenience were becoming a more apparent presence in the city.

The biggest news and most recent event, of course, is the passage of I-502. As a general overview, this created new DUI considerations, gave the Liquor Control Board a kind of monopoly, and created a proposed highly regulated distribution and tax system. Possession under a certain amount has been decriminalized per I-502, with exceptions.  Grow one plant, or distribute/sell outside of the new laws and you can and likely will be charged with a state crime even still. The future is not certain, and laws change. Legislators who supported I-502 are now putting collective gardens and the affirmative defenses of patients and designated providers per I-692 in their crosshairs.

It seems clear that current Washington State laws regarding marijuana will be shaken up in the near future. Always exercise caution, and if you have any questions about marijuana or any other drugs or the state or federal ramifications, call The Law Office of Dillon G. Smith today and speak with an attorney with experience dealing with these issues.


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