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Initiative 502: Marijuana's status in Washington

It is now fairly well known that Washington is one of the few states to have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana. However, this does not mean that there are zero restrictions on marijuana cultivation and use in the state. Marijuana in Washington is actually highly-regulated and those who buy, sell, grow or use the drug can benefit from familiarizing themselves with Washington's laws on the subject. Those unfamiliar with relatively new state laws may end up facing drug charges if they don't know about key restrictions.

Initiative 502 is the Washington State law that has dramatically changed the status of marijuana in the state. I-502 essentially legalized marijuana possession for adults age 21 and older. Still, there are many restrictions on cannabis in Washington despite the passing of I-502. For example, selling marijuana to a minor is a felony and businesses require a special license to sell marijuana. In addition, advertising is tightly controlled by the state and public use of marijuana is prohibited. Moreover, growing marijuana in one's home is forbidden unless one is a medical marijuana patient.

What if a Spokane resident uses marijuana and then has to drive somewhere? A traffic stop could come with serious consequences in this type of situation. I-502 sets a DUI standard of 5ng/ml of active THC, although a police officer would still need proof of impairment in order to arrest the driver. Legally purchasing cannabis in Washington and then transporting the drug across state lines can also result in a person being charged with drug offenses. Finally, I-502 does not alter or preempt federal law, which still classifies marijuana as an illegal substance.

I-502 changed many aspects of marijuana use in Washington. Still, it is not a blanket protection and users must exercise caution and obey all laws in order to keep clear of criminal charges. An experienced Spokane drug charges attorney can ensure a resident's rights are upheld if they are charged with a marijuana-related crime. A skilled attorney may be able to reduce charges or even get charges dismissed; if a case goes to court, a defendant does not need to try and fight the system on their own.

Source: Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, "FAQs on I-502," accessed Aug. 8, 2015

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