Legal marijuana: Questions answered



SEATTLE - After Initiative 502 was approved by 55 percent of the vote, it will be legal for adults 21 and older to possess marijuana in Washington state starting December 6, 2012.  Here’s some of what you need to know.


What does this mean to me?

 It means adults 21 and older can possess up to 1 ounce of the drug; 16 ounces of a solid marijuana-infused product, such as brownies or baked goods; or 72 ounces of infused liquid, such as oil for personal use only.


So it’s legal to carry around that amount?

Yes, but the initiative says it “is unlawful to open a package containing marijuana ... in view of the general public.”


 I’m not a medical marijuana patient.  Where can I legally buy pot or pot-infused goods?

 Currently, nowhere.  The Washington State Liquor Control Board is working to develop guidelines for the sale and distribution of marijuana and has until Dec. 1, 2013, to finalize those rules. In the meantime, production and sale of non-medical marijuana remains illegal.


 Can I grow or sell marijuana?

Not at this time, though in the future licenses may be available under laws specified by the state Liquor Control Board.


Is it legal to smoke marijuana in a public place?

According to Seattle police, while it will be legal to smoke marijuana in one’s own home, smoking it in public could result in a ticket - but not an arrest, much like having an open container of alcohol in a public place. Users outside of Seattle should inquire about laws specific to their city.


 What about driving after smoking marijuana?

 Initiative 502 establishes a standard blood test limit for driving under the influence.

If an officer believes you’re driving under the influence of anything, including marijuana, they will conduct a field sobriety test and may consult with a drug recognition expert.  A blood test may follow.


 After it’s legal to buy marijuana, how much will it cost?

That has yet to be determined, but marijuana sales will be subject to a 40 percent tax. State financial experts estimate it could raise nearly $2 billion in tax revenue over the next five years.


How will the tax money be used?

The money is earmarked for education, health care, substance abuse prevention and basic government services.


If marijuana is still illegal under federal law, how can it be legal in Washington?

The federal government still hasn't decided whether to take action to block the new law.  Medical marijuana is also illegal under federal law but those laws have not been blocked in Washington or other states.


Does I-502 affect current medical marijuana laws?

No.  Medical marijuana laws in Washington remain the same.


How is the legalization laws going to effect pre-employment drug screening tests? This I think is the only thing not clearly identified in the law.

Though marijuana will be legal, smokers will be on their own.  Employers have the right to ban the use of marijuana by it's employees.  The new law offers no protection in regards to the workplace.


When licenses are in place, will they allow us to grow industrial hemp?

It is our understanding that industrial hemp strains of the cannabis plant are excluded from the definition of marijuana as described in I-502, section 2-s:

 “The term does not include the mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination."

Still have more questions?

Post them in the comments selection below and we'll answer them on this page.  An FAQ about medical marijuana can be found here.