Updated on November 19, 2021. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Patients who have been formally diagnosed with one or more than one qualifying health condition can apply and become registered for medical cannabis in Washington. The Washington Department of Health is responsible for policymaking, enforcement, and patient registration for statewide medical marijuana programs.
Getting a medical card in Washington allows patients to enter a retail dispensary and legally purchase cannabis products for medicinal use. On December 6, 2012, Washington became the first state in America to legalize adult-use (recreational) cannabis.
Any medically endorsed marijuana retail business owner can provide cannabis to a patient at no charge. This is under the WAC 314-55-080 legislation, which was written to ensure that patients with restricted incomes would not be exempted from using cannabis.
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) issued a new statement on July 22, 2021, about delta-9 THC. There are a number of processors in the state of Washington that have been converting hemp CBD into delta-9 THC and selling products to consumers through dispensaries and distributors.
The Washington LCB notice indicated that while hemp is legal to produce, creating delta-9 products is not. And producers and retailers will face criminal prosecution for administrative violations (AVNs) to state law.
This also applies to Washington residents who are growing cannabis at home. Only patients with a medical card in Washington are permitted to grow plants. Consumers who purchase for recreational needs are not permitted to grow cannabis at home.
The medical cannabis program in Washington is designed for patients who have chronic, terminal, or debilitating health conditions. That means health conditions that are having a negative impact on activities of daily living and self-care.
The Washington medical cannabis program recognizes the following qualifying health conditions:
Patients living in the state of Washington who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness may have access to medical cannabis and concentrates through compassionate care provisions. This is at the discretion of the patient and the supervising physician, and practitioners.
Like other states that have also legalized adult-use (recreational) cannabis, there are a wide variety of cannabis products available in Washington. The standard cannabis products available are:
Patients can choose to purchase at a medical dispensary or a recreational retail location. In Washington, many dispensaries cater to both medical cardholders and recreational cannabis users. All purchases of cannabis are legal at state-licensed dispensaries, but not if purchased elsewhere.
Residents of Washington state that are aged eighteen (18) and older can apply for a medical cannabis card. To be eligible, patients must have a formal diagnosis of one or more than one of the qualifying health conditions.
Getting your medical card in Washington is much different than it is in other states. First, you have to schedule an appointment with a board-certified health care practitioner.
The physician or practitioner will determine if you have an eligible condition or symptoms during the health-check appointment. And if medical cannabis could help you safely moderate the symptoms.
The next step is to call a medically-endorsed retail store (dispensary). You will be required to schedule an appointment with a medical marijuana consultant. This is a certified cannabis professional who will help you complete the registration process.
When you attend your registration appointment, you will need to bring a few items with you:
The recognition card fee in Washington averages about $10 for enrolling in the state registry. Once you have a medical marijuana card, you can visit a dispensary to purchase cannabis products.
However, you can opt-out of the patient registry as a matter of privacy law if you are over the age of eighteen (18) years. Minors and their caregivers must remain registered with the state.
For more information, read “A Patient’s Guide to the Medical Marijuana Database.”
If you have a child under the age of eighteen (18) years with a debilitating health condition, they may qualify for access to medical cannabis. Minors require a designated caregiver to provide assistance. The caregiver must also be registered with the Washington Department of Health (DOH) patient database.
Before you apply to become a caregiver for a minor in the state of Washington, you must meet certain requirements. Caregivers must also comply with the terms and conditions of RCW 69.51A legislation.
Caregivers are called Medical Marijuana Designated Providers in Washington. To qualify, the designated provider must be:
One of the unique things about the Washington state medical marijuana program is that a caregiver can also be a qualified patient with a medical card. So if a parent has a medical card, they may still be a caregiver for a child that also has a qualifying health condition and therapeutic need.
Caregivers are responsible for discussing the treatment plan for the minor with the Washington physician or practitioner. They are also allowed to purchase, transport, possess, and administer cannabis to the little, in accordance with physician recommendations.
A caregiver may also grow cannabis at home for the minor’s medicinal use. A designated caregiver cannot have more than twenty-four ounces of cannabis in possession for one patient. And they may grow up to fifteen plants at home for therapeutic use by the minor.
The medical marijuana card in Washington will have the same expiration date that is listed on the original medical marijuana authorization from the practitioner. When it is time to renew, the patient has to first renew the medical marijuana authorization with a doctor. That means scheduling an appointment for a health check.
Patients must schedule the renewal authorization with the same practitioner that issued the first certification. Once the patient has a new authorization from the doctor, the next step is to visit a medically endorsed retail store to get a new card.
Replacing a lost or stolen patient card is easy. The patient has to call the issuing healthcare practitioner (the doctor that performed the health check) to request a replacement.
The patient must always have an original copy of the medical authorization. Copies are not accepted. The issuing practitioner will provide another copy printed on legal tamper-resistant paper. It is up to the practitioner whether to issue the replacement with the same date as the original or provide the current issuance date on the form.
Washington allows for compassionate care renewal. This is for patients who may not be able to travel due to poor health. The practitioner can then opt to perform the annual renewal health check through telemedicine services.
The state of Washington provides an updated list of medically endorsed retail store lists. That is the name for medical cannabis dispensaries in Washington. The stores where you purchase cannabis products are also responsible for issuing your Washington medical card. For this reason, some people choose to use the same store for renewals and purchasing products.
If it is your first time visiting a medically endorsed retail store in Washington (cannabis dispensary), it is best to call ahead to schedule an appointment. That way, the medical cannabis consultant can have time to review your health history, symptoms and provide personalized recommendations.
In November 1998, Initiative 692 allowed patients with terminal illnesses or debilitating health conditions to use medical marijuana.
The state of Washington was the first in the country to legalize recreational use of cannabis on December 6, 2012. It became the second state to permit the sale of recreational cannabis to adults over twenty-one (21) years.
The evolution of the Washington state medical cannabis program has created some unique aspects for patients. The medical cannabis program offers many advantages to patients, including the ability to grow cannabis at home.
Here are some of the highlights and amendments that developed medical cannabis laws in Washington.
November, 1998—I-692 not only legalized medical marijuana for patients with qualifying health conditions. It provided an affirmative defense to criminal prosecution for qualified patients and caregivers, provided they did not possess more than a sixty (60) day supply.
Initiative 692 originally allowed for the cultivation of up to 15 plants. This has now been reduced to six (6) plants maximum for medical cardholders or caregivers.
Source Web 2021: pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
November, 2010—I-692 was further amended to address a shortage in the number of physicians that could perform the medical cannabis health checks.
The type of practitioners that can provide a medical card authorization was expanded to include:
This further punctuates that Washington state does not want businesses that specialize exclusively in medical card health evaluations to establish. Lawmakers in Washington want patients to create a long-term relationship with practitioners that can develop treatment plans that incorporate medical marijuana.
Source Web 2021: sos.wa.gov
July, 2016—SB 5073 passes but Washington Gov. Gregoire vetoes the majority of the bill. Gregoire expresses concern that passing the legislation would leave state workers open to criminal prosecution for violating federal drug laws.
The parts of SB 5073 that were not vetoed expanded patient legal protections and provided guidance for healthcare practitioners conducting medical card reviews. It also allowed caregivers, patients, and providers to form collective gardens for growing cannabis.
Source Web 2021: legiscan.com
July, 2019—HB 1095 took effect that allows school districts in Washington to create policies allowing caregivers to administer marijuana products to their children on school grounds.
Source Web 2021: awfilesext.leg.wa.gov