Wednesday, December 05, 2012

"Frequently asked questions about Medical Marijuana (Cannabis) in Washington State"

Washington State Department of Health:

Are current medical marijuana recommendations still valid with the passing of I-502?

Yes. The laws relating to authorization of medical marijuana by healthcare providers are still valid and enforceable.

Will the passing of I-502 affect the amount of medical marijuana that authorized patients can possess?

No. The current medical marijuana law allows authorized patients to possess 24 ounces of useable cannabis, instead of just one ounce allowed in I-502.

Will medical marijuana patients still be able to grow their own marijuana without a license to grow?

Yes. The current medical marijuana law allows authorized patients to grow up to 15 plants.

Will medical marijuana patients need to purchase their marijuana from a taxed retail store?

No. They can still grow their own marijuana or participate in a collective garden if they don’t want to purchase from a retail store.

Will there be an age requirement for medical marijuana patients now that I-502 passed?

No, healthcare providers may recommend it for any patient where it is medically appropriate under the law and the profession’s standard of care.

Are dispensaries now legal with the passing of I-502?

No, I-502 authorizes the sale by retailers licensed by the Liquor Control Board only.

Will there be an exception for medical marijuana patients driving under the influence of marijuana?

No, there is no stated exception in I-502 for medical marijuana patients.

Does I-502 remove all criminal penalties for adults possessing one ounce or less of marijuana?

No. Possessing, growing and distributing marijuana are still illegal under federal law.

Is medical marijuana (cannabis) legal in Washington? I've heard conflicting answers to this question.

Some states may allow use of a medical marijuana recommendation from Washington. Washington medical marijuana patients should check with other states before traveling and comply with the laws in the other state. Healthcare provider recommendations, ID cards, and other documentation from other states are not legal in Washington.

I heard the current federal administration legalized medical marijuana (cannabis). Is that true?

No. U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced updated formal guidelines for federal prosecutors in states that have laws allowing the use of medical marijuana (cannabis). The guidelines do not legalize medical marijuana (cannabis). The president directed federal prosecutors to consider appropriate medical use when making criminal charging decisions. The guidelines only provide direction for prosecutors when reviewing medical marijuana (cannabis) cases.

How can I find out if I qualify to be a medical marijuana (cannabis) patient?

Talk to your healthcare provider. The law includes a very specific list of qualifying conditions you must have before a doctor, physician assistant, advanced registered nurse practitioner, or naturopath can recommend medical marijuana (cannabis). In addition to those conditions in the law, chronic renal failure was added by petition in 2010.

Do I have to register with or obtain a card from the state?

No. If you are a qualifying patient with a valid written recommendation from your healthcare provider, that’s all you need.

What type of healthcare providers can recommend marijuana for qualifying conditions?

The following providers may recommend marijuana:
  • Medical doctors (MDs)
  • Physician assistants (PAs)
  • Osteopathic physicians (DOs)
  • Osteopathic physician assistants (OA)
  • Naturopathic physicians (ND)
  • Advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs)

Can a healthcare provider from another state recommend marijuana (cannabis) for me?

Not unless the provider is also licensed in Washington. The law says the healthcare provider must be licensed in Washington.

Can I get a list of providers in my area that will recommend marijuana?

The Department of Health doesn't have this information.

What is a valid written recommendation?

As of June 10, 2010, recommendations must be written on tamper-resistant paper. They must include an original signature by the healthcare provider, a date, and a statement that says in the healthcare provider's professional opinion the patient may benefit from the medical use of marijuana. The 2010 law change also prohibits the use of a copy of the patient's medical records in lieu of a recommendation.

Is my recommendation still valid if it was written before June 10, 2010?

Yes. It is still valid unless your healthcare provider has included an expiration date.

Is my recommendation considered a prescription if it is written on tamper-resistant paper?

No. Healthcare providers cannot write prescriptions for medical marijuana. They may only write recommendations that a patient has a medical condition that would benefit from the medical use of marijuana.

How do I get medical marijuana (cannabis)? Can I buy it?

The law allows a qualifying patient or designated provider to grow medical marijuana (cannabis). It is not legal to buy or sell it.

Are dispensaries legal?

No. The law does not allow dispensaries. The law only allows qualifying patients and designated providers to possess medical marijuana; the new law allows qualifying patients and designated providers to participate in collective gardens.

How much medical marijuana (cannabis) can I have?

A qualifying patient or designated provider may have a 60-day supply of medical marijuana. A 60-day supply is defined as 24 ounces and 15 plants under RCW 69.51A.040. The law says that a patient may exceed these limits if he or she can prove medical need. However, the law only allows for an affirmative defense (and not protection from arrest or prosecution) if the limit is exceeded and the patient is complying with the law.

How do I become a designated provider?

A designated provider must be at least 18 years old and must be designated in writing by the qualifying patient. A designated provider can only be a provider for one patient at any one time. Chapter 69.51A sets limitations on becoming a designated provider and ending a relationship as a designated provider.

Can I be a patient and a designated provider?


Why are bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety not included in the list of qualifying conditions?

The Medical Quality Assurance Commission, in consultation with the Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery, has the authority to add qualifying conditions to the current list. The commission has received petitions to add these conditions to the list of qualifying conditions. The commission has denied the requests, citing a lack of scientific evidence supporting improved health outcomes from the use of medical marijuana for those conditions. You can find the commission's and board's decision on the latest petition in the Final Order.

How do I request to add a condition to the list of qualifying conditions?

Anyone may petition the commission to add a condition to the list. By law, the commission will consult with the Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery. For more information about this process, you may contact the commission at:
Medical Quality Assurance Commission
P.O. Box 47866
Olympia, WA 98504-7866

Is medical marijuana (cannabis) legal in Washington? I've heard conflicting answers to this question.

Marijuana possession is illegal in Washington. The medical marijuana law, Chapter 69.51A, provides protection from arrest or other criminal sanctions for qualified patients and designated caregivers who are complying with the law. People who qualify have a valid reason to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana. However, medical marijuana (cannabis) is not legal under federal law. There is no protection for people who are arrested or charged under federal law.


I have questions that the Department of Health cannot answer. For example: Can I rent my house to a medical marijuana (cannabis) patient? Do I have rights as a tenant? What about using medical marijuana (cannabis) around children? Can I be fired from my job if I use medical marijuana (cannabis)? How do I get help finding the answers?

There may be other laws that apply to some situations. We suggest obtaining legal advice if you are not sure what the law says. You may also consult groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Commission. All state laws are on the Washington State Legislative webpage.

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