In 1998, voters approved I-692 which permitted the use of marijuana for medical purposes by qualifying patients. The Legislature subsequently amended the chapter on medical use of marijuana in 2007 and in 2010. In order to qualify for the use of medical marijuana, patients must have a terminal or debilitating medical condition (cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis, intractable pain, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, hepatitis C, nausea/seizure diseases, or a disease approved by the Medical Quality Assurance Commission) and the diagnosis of this condition must have been made by a health care professional. Patients are not provided arrest protection. Instead, patients are permitted to assert an affirmative defense at trial with proof of compliance with the medical marijuana law.
Patients may grow medical marijuana for themselves or designate a provider to grow on their behalf. Designated providers may only provide medical marijuana to one patient at a time. Patients and their designated providers are limited to possession of an amount of marijuana that is necessary for the patient’s personal medical use, and not exceeding fifteen plants and twenty-four ounces of useable marijuana.
Bill Draft Summary
The bill draft provides for arrest protection for medical cannabis patients, rather than the affirmative defense currently available to them. The bill draft provides for a system by which patients may purchase medical cannabis. They may continue to grow for themselves or have a designated provider grow for them, or they may purchase cannabis from a licensed dispenser, regulated by the Department of Health. Dispensers may purchase cannabis at wholesale from licensed producers or licensed processors of cannabis products. Both producers and processors are regulated by the Department of Agriculture.
The patient is permitted to show compliance with the law by possessing valid documentation that he or she is authorized to use medical cannabis. A voluntary registry system is also created within the Department of Health with which law enforcement must consult before conducting a warrantless search or arrest or seeking a search or arrest warrant. Valid documentation and registrations are valid for up to a one year period.
Terminal or debilitating conditions.
The use of cannabis by patients who have been determined to have a terminal or debilitating medical condition is permitted. Terminal or debilitating medical conditions remain as defined in current law except that the requirement that the condition be unrelieved by standard treatments or medications is removed.
- Medical cannabis patients and their designated providers are provided with protection from arrest, search, prosecution, and other civil or criminal consequences for use of medical cannabis if:
- The patient or provider possesses no more than 15 cannabis plants and no more than 24 ounces of useable cannabis. Cannabis products are permitted and a patient or provider may possess no more than the amount of product that can be produced with up to 24 ounces of useable cannabis.
- The patient or provider presents valid documentation or proof of registration with the registry to law enforcement when questioned about medical use of cannabis.
- A copy of the health care professional's authorization and the patient or provider's contact information must be posted prominently next to cannabis at the residence.
- The designated provider has not converted medical cannabis for personal use and has not served as a designated provider to another patient for at least fifteen days.
- Medical cannabis patients and their designated providers may sign up on the Department of Health registry. Before making a warrantless arrest or search or before seeking a search warrant or arrest warrant based on a cannabis-related incident, law enforcement officers must consult with the registry and determine whether the person is a registered medical cannabis patient.
- Registered persons may not be arrested or searched and registered locations may not be searched or seized unless there is evidence of conduct that would disqualify the person or location from the protections of the medical cannabis law or there exists probable cause that another criminal offense has been or is being committed.
Affirmative defense. Qualified patients or designated providers who do not qualify for arrest protection may assert an affirmative defense at trial if:
- The amount of cannabis in the patient's possession exceeds 15 plants or 24 ounces of useable cannabis and the patient establishes that the excess amount is necessary for the patient's medical use.
- The patient does not provide law enforcement with valid documentation that he or she is a qualified patient or does not provide evidence that he or she is a registered patient, but is able to establish at trial that he or she was a qualifying patient at the time of arrest.
- The patient is a nonresident of the state, is authorized to engage in the medical use of cannabis under the laws of another state, is otherwise within the provisions of the medical cannabis law, and presents the documentation of authorization required under the patient's authorizing state law to law enforcement when questioned about the use of cannabis.
Collective gardens. Patients may participate in collective gardens if:
- No more than 25 patients may participate at any time.
- A collective garden may contain no more than 15 plants per patient up to a total of 90 plants for six patients. If seven or more patients participate in a collective garden, no more than 99 plants may be grown.
- No more than 96 ounces of useable cannabis may be on the premises of a collective garden at any time.
- A copy of each patient's valid documentation must be available at all times on the premises.
- Usable cannabis may only be delivered to a qualifying patient participating in the collective garden.
A designated provider is a person who is at least 18 years old and has been designated by a patient to serve as a provider of cannabis. A designated provider may grow cannabis for only one patient at a time during a 15 day period. The patient may revoke the designation of a specific provider and designate a different provider at any time and the protections of the medical cannabis law are no longer provided to a designated provider 72 hours after the designation revocation.
Other patient and provider provisions.
- Parental rights may not be restricted solely due to medical use of cannabis unless this use results in a long-term impairment that interferes with the performance of parenting functions.
- A patient may not be refused, discharged, or discriminated against in employment solely as a result of off-site medical use of cannabis if:
- The employer is not a federal contractor or grant recipient under the drug-free workplace act.
- The employment does not involve public safety or the handling of hazardous materials or heavy equipment.
- The off-site use of medical cannabis does not prevent the proper performance of the work.
- A patient may not be refused or evicted from housing.
- Possession, delivery, or production of medical cannabis may not result in civil forfeiture of real or personal property.
- A patient awaiting an organ transplant may not have his or her use of medical cannabis used as the sole disqualifier for an organ transplant. However, transplants centers may consider whether the use of medical cannabis could lead to a greater risk of infection or organ failure and may restrict the use of medical cannabis before the transplant.
Department of Corrections. In imposing a criminal sentence, deferred prosecution, order of continuance, deferred disposition, or dispositional order a court may permit the medical use of cannabis and exclude it as a reason for finding the offender has violated the terms of his or her sentence or order.
Limitations on use of medical cannabis.
- Patients may not use medical cannabis in a public place in a manner that would cause another person to identify the substance as cannabis.
- Health insurance providers are not required to reimburse a patient for the medical use of cannabis.
- Health care professionals are not required to authorize the medical use of cannabis.
- Employers are not required to make an accommodation for the on-site use of cannabis.
- It is a class C felony to backdate any valid documentation to a time earlier than the actual date of execution.
- Medical use of cannabis is not a defense for a charge of driving under the influence.
Licensed producers and processors of cannabis products.
- Licensed producers and processors of cannabis products may be non-profit or for-profit businesses.
- A licensed producer is a person licensed by the Department of Agriculture to produce cannabis for medical use for wholesale to licensed dispensers and licensed processors of cannabis products.
- A licensed processor of cannabis products is a person licensed by the Department of Agriculture to manufacture, process, handle and label cannabis products for wholesale to licensed dispensers. This includes edible products and lotions.
- Producers and processors must:
- Maintain records addressing: all cannabis produced, processed, weighed, tested, stored, shipped, or sold. These records are subject to inspection by the Department of Agriculture.
- Provide reports to the Department of Agriculture as required by the Director.
- Maintain facilities in a manner to provide reasonable ingress and egress to all areas and equipment and provide an adequate facility to complete inspections.
- Sell only to a Department of Agriculture inspector, licensed dispensers, or to law enforcement officers. Producers may sell to processors.
- Processors must comply with the food processing act.
- Producers and processors are subject to the Business and Occupation tax.
Department of Agriculture.
- The Director of the Department of Agriculture is given authority over licensed producers and processors of cannabis products.
- The Director may:
- Monitor and inspect the production and processing of all medical cannabis.
- Approve facilities of producers and processors of cannabis products.
- Investigate fraud complaints.
- Inspect all the facilities and books of any producer or processor of cannabis products.
- Issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and/or the production of books, documents and records.
- Adopt rules establishing inspection standards and procedures intended for medical use and to establish the identification of cannabis intended for medical use.
- Deny, suspend, or revoke a producer or processor's license if the producer or processor is in violation of the law on medical cannabis.
- The Director must adopt rules on the following:
- Grades and standards suitable for inspection of medical cannabis.
- Grading and certification of grade, grading factors, condition, cannabinoid profile, THC concentration, or other qualitative measurement of medical cannabis.
- Sizes and security features on containers used for packing, handling, or storing medical cannabis.
- Labeling requirements for medical cannabis.
- Licensure requirements for producers and processors of cannabis products.
- Mandatory inspections of production and processing facilities.
- Transportation requirements for medical cannabis from production facilities to processing facilities and dispensers.
- Licensing and renewal fees.
- Record keeping requirements of producers and processors.
- Sample retention and disposal.
- If a producer or processor fails to submit to an inspection or audit, the Director of the Department of Agriculture may give written notice to the producer or processor to submit to inspection. If the producer or processor fails to comply, the Director must levy a $500 per day fine and after seven days may seek a court order authorizing the Department of seize books, papers, cannabis and property relating to the operation of the business.
- Samples of cannabis drawn by Department inspectors may be returned to the producer or processor or will become property of the state and subject to disposition by the Department.
- Department employees who accept money or other consideration for improper performance or who divert cannabis for personal use will be subject to criminal penalties.
- Licensed dispensers must be non-profit corporations.
- Dispensers may sell seeds, seedlings, cuttings, plants, useable cannabis, and cannabis products to medical cannabis patients.
- Dispensers may sell only cannabis received from a licensed producer or processor and may sell only to qualifying patients or their designated providers.
- Patients purchasing at dispensing facilities are not subject to sales tax.
- Licensed dispensers will be subject to the Business and Occupation tax.
Department of Health.
- The Secretary of the Department of Health must adopt rules on the following:
- License requirements for dispensers of cannabis.
- Mandatory inspection of dispensers' locations.
- Procedures on the suspension and revocation of licenses.
- Recordkeeping requirements.
- Sizes, dimension, and safety standards for containers to be used for dispensing medical cannabis.
- Cannabis storage requirements, including security requirements.
- Labeling requirements.
- Standards for cannabis dispensing facilities.
- Standards for sanitary conditions for cannabis dispensing facilities and equipment.
- Licensing and renewal fees.
Advertising. Producers, processors and dispensers may not advertise cannabis on broadcast television, radio or on billboards in a manner that promotes or tends to promote the use or abuse of cannabis.
- If no penalty is provided for, a violation of the law on medical cannabis is a misdemeanor.
- Producers, processors, and dispensers who fail to comply with the law on medical cannabis may be subject to a civil penalty up to one thousand dollars per violation.
- A person who aids or abets in the violation of the law on medical cannabis may be subject to civil penalty of up to one thousand dollars per violation.
- Producers, processors, or dispensers who sell to an unauthorized person are subject to a class C felony.
- Producers, processors, or dispensers who violate the prohibition on advertising are subject to a fine of up to $1000.
- Law enforcement officers who fail to consult the registry before conducting a search or seeking a search or arrest warrant are subject to a civil penalty of $500.
- Producers and processors who fail to respond to a Department of Agriculture notice to submit to inspection are subject to a fine of $500 per day.
Registration - patients and designated providers.
- The Department of Health must adopt rules establishing a secure and confidential registration system. The registration system must permit law enforcement to verify whether a health care professional has registered a person or an address as a qualifying patient or a designated provider.
- Access to the registry requires an articulated individualized suspicion of criminal activity.
- Registration is voluntary for patients and providers.
- Registration fees must be established on an income-based sliding scale.
- The registration system must meet the following:
- Personally identifiable information must be non-reversible and not susceptible to linkage by use of data external to the registration system.
- Ensure patient privacy.
- Maintain a log of verification queries for a three year period.
- Personally identifiable information is exempt from public disclosure.
- Subjects of verification queries may inspect a copy of the log during regular business hours or request copies of log records relating to them.
List of producers and processors. The Department of Agriculture must create and maintain a confidential list of producers and processors. Names and personally identifiable information may be released only to authorized Department of Agriculture employees or to authorized law enforcement employees as necessary to verify that a person is a producer or processor or that a location is the address of a production or processing facility.
List of dispensers. The Department of Health must create and maintain a confidential list of persons who have a license to dispense medical cannabis. Names and personally identifiable information may be released only to authorized Department of Health employees as necessary to verify that a person is a dispenser or that a location is the recorded address of a licensed dispenser.
Evaluation. By July 1, 2014, and within available funds, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy must conduct a cost-benefit evaluation of the implementation of the law on medical cannabis.
Research. The University of Washington is permitted to conduct scientific research on the safety of administering cannabis as part of a medical treatment. The University may develop medical guidelines for the appropriate administration of cannabis.
Grandfather clause. Dispensaries and producers who have registered with the Secretary of State by January 1, 2011 and who file a letter of intent to become licensed with the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Health, as the case may be, may assert an affirmative defense if charged with a cannabis-related crime. Dispensaries and producers may only provide marijuana to other dispensaries and to qualified patients. They must become licensed when the Departments adopt licensing requirements.
Local government authority. Local governments may only enact laws that are consistent with the state's law on medical cannabis. Reasonable zoning requirements for producers, processors, and dispensers are permitted.