Washington has long been a friendly state to cannabis, as they were second only to California in voting to allow medical marijuana. The Evergreen State was part of a group of states to legalize marijuana for medical use two years after California started their medical marijuana program. Cannabis business owners in the state of Washington need to fully understand all the cannabis laws so that they can retain their licenses to sell both the plant and products made with cannabis. There are so many marijuana laws from where and how businesses can operate to the packaging of cannabis products. With cannabis remaining illegal under US federal law, it’s vital that you understand all cannabis laws. And to understand the laws, it’s important to learn the history of cannabis in Washington.
Legal History of Cannabis in Washington
Perhaps because of its location on the West Coast with California and Oregon, Washington was one of the first states to legalize cannabis at the end of the twentieth century. However, they began the century with the rest of the country, limiting the use and then prohibiting cannabis entirely.
In the 1800s, cannabis was completely legal in the whole country, and industrial hemp and psychoactive cannabis were considered the same plant. Many states grew hemp for rope and clothing, while pharmacies grew psychoactive cannabis for use in medicines. At the begin of the 20th century, however, public outcry over tainted medicines resulted in the Poison Act of 1907, which listed cannabis as a poison. More reforms continued, and Prohibition of alcohol made the tide turn against cannabis even more until the state criminalized cultivation, use, and possession of cannabis in 1923. After the creation of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, making cannabis illegal in the US.
Early Legalization Efforts
During the 1960s, a counterculture that included marijuana began to grow among college students that crystallized during the Vietnam War. As members of the counterculture aged, they stayed active in politics and pushed for legalization of cannabis in the US. There was some pushback, and the federal laws about cannabis tightened, especially after the creation of the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1973. Voters in Washington, along with growing numbers of people in the rest of the country, opted to relax laws on cannabis. Like many other states, Washington started to separate cannabis from the other Schedule I drugs and make punishments less and less severe for possession of small amounts of cannabis.
Medical Cannabis Laws in WA
The laws for medical marijuana in Washington began with a series of high-profile lawsuits regarding distributors and patients. First, a woman who ran a medical cannabis co-op, Joanna McKee, was arrested and over 100 cannabis plants seized. The search warrant was ruled unconstitutional, so her case never went to trial, but it did put the spotlight on the cancer patient and attorney Ralph Seeley, who sued the state of Washington for the right to use cannabis to alleviate his suffering. While his case was defeated, it opened the door for voters to decide on whether cannabis should be available to patients suffering from diseases like cancer and AIDS.
After a series of defeated laws, Washington voters finally approved Initiative 692 in 1998 by one of the highest margins of 59%. This became the WA Medical Use of Marijuana Act, which allowed patients with a debilitating or terminal disease like cancer to use cannabis to relieve their symptoms. It decriminalized medical cannabis in that it protected qualifying patients and caregivers from criminal prosecution for possessing certain amounts of cannabis strictly for medical use.
The Medical Use of Marijuana Act allowed patients with a prescription for medical marijuana to register with the Washington Department of Health in order to be able to legally purchase cannabis at an authorized dispensary. Health care providers who want to prescribe cannabis also need to register with the DOH. Growing medical cannabis is a little trickier, so producers of cannabis plants and products need to follow the rules set out by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.
Current Laws for Recreational Cannabis in WA
After two decades of medical marijuana in Washington, voters again called for cannabis reform. When presented with WA Initiative 502, they voted to allow marijuana for personal, non-prescription use in the state in November 2012. Growing cannabis in the home is reserved for medical marijuana patients in Washington, but individuals can consume cannabis in private residences. Adults over 21 years of age can purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana flowers, seven grams of cannabis concentrates, 72 ounces of infused liquid, or 16 ounces of edibles. All retail stores must be licensed by the state, but all a purchaser needs is an ID from any state proving that they’re over 21.
Current Packaging Laws for Cannabis in WA
Just like with pharmaceutical drugs and even recreational substances like tobacco, cannabis is always regulated when it’s decriminalized. This isn’t just for raw cannabis flowers, but also for edibles and other products that contain cannabis. The Washington Department of Health set out laws for cannabis products to make sure that consumers are aware of everything about the product.
Any cannabis business who wants to operate in Washington needs to be aware of the laws regarding packaging cannabis products. Here’s a quick breakdown of most of these cannabis packaging laws in Washington.
- Products have to list the concentrations of active chemicals in them, as well as clearly state serving sizes, how many servings per package, and overall weight.
- Products can’t be over 100 mg THC in total and individual serving sizes can’t be over 10 mg THC each.
- Logos can’t have medical symbols like the caduceus or the cross, and they can’t mimic the look of common over the counter drugs.
- Packaging labels must say that they are “Chapter 246-70 WAC, Compliant – General Use” and have the state’s approved logo.
- There are separate laws for high CBD and high THC products, as well as logos approved by the state.
As a Washington cannabis business, you need to be knowledgeable about all the laws regarding your kind of business. Cannabis growers, processors, distributors, and even edibles chefs need to know not only the regulations for creating their cannabis products but also the laws regarding packaging and selling them. When it comes to getting the right kind of packaging for cannabis products in Washington, you don’t have to worry because packaging experts PBFY have created the best cannabis packaging products, and they’re available at greenrushpackaging.com.