Legal States

Washington Medical Marijuana Facts

Washington Medical Marijuana Statistics and Marijuana Facts

Washington state voters came out in support of medical marijuana not long after California when they approved Ballot Initiative I-692 in 1998. At that time, 59% of Washington voters supported the measure. The original law authorized possession and cultivation of cannabis for patients who had a doctor’s recommendation. It authorized cahexia, cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and intractable pain as qualifying conditions. In 2008, the legislature expanded the list of conditions to include Crohn’s disease, Hepatitis C with intractable and severe syndromes. A curious fact about medical marijuana in Washington is that the state does not have a patient registry or a medical marijuana card; instead patients use their doctor’s recommendation (which must be on tamper-resistant paper) as their document of eligibility.

Washington Medical Marijuana Facts 2011:

  • Washington allows patients or their caregivers to possess more medical marijuana than most states. In fact, the law states that they may possess a “60-day supply” of marijuana and this amount was not specified until a decade later. In 2008, the state officially defined a 60-day supply as being no more than 24 ounces of usable marijuana and/or 15 plants.
  • The Washington Department of Health was only instructed to determine the 60-day supply and study issues related to access to medical marijuana. That has mostly been the extent of state involvement with the program.
  • Due to the lack of a registry there are no official statistics about medical marijuana patients. A 2009 Marijuana Policy Project estimate gave a number of 35,510 likely patients.
  • It was estimated that in 2007 there were roughly 630,000 marijuana users in the state, more than half of who were over age 26. Marijuana is also the most popular among Washingtonians aged 18 to 25, over 31% of who report cannabis use.
  • Marijuana use appears to be most prominent in King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane counties.
  • It was estimated that marijuana law enforcement cost Washington taxpayers almost $170 million in 2006 alone.

Washington Marijuana Data: Recent Facts

  • In July of 2011, the Washington legislature attempted to change to the medical marijuana law to establish a framework to regulate marijuana dispensaries. However, because Governor Gregoire vetoed parts of the bill, the result was an effective ban of dispensaries and a confusing set of new rules.
  • The updated rules change the facts about marijuana in Washington so that patients and caregivers can grow marijuana in collective gardens of up to 10 people. Such gardens can grow up to 45 plants.
  • The law now lets local governments create their own medical marijuana regulations. The most marijuana friendly municipality has been Seattle, which explicitly has chosen to allow dispensaries to operate.
  • In November of 2011, the federal government targeted Washington dispensaries in a series of raids and shutdowns.