Medical Marijuana in Washington State

Medical Marijuana in Washington State

[See our legal marijuana page for information about Washington's Initiative No. 502.]

Under the Washington State Medical Use of Marijuana Act, it is lawful for qualifying patients to use and possess medical marijuana under specifically defined circumstances.  A qualifying patient or designated provider must be able to demonstrate compliance with the Act in order to avoid criminal penalties.  

Even with a valid medical marijuana license, failure to comply with the Act will prevent a patient from being able to assert medical use as an affirmative defense to charges that he or she violated state drug laws.  See RCW 69.51A.040.

To assert a medical use defense, a person must establish the following:

  • He is either a qualifying patient or a designated provider to a qualifying patient as those terms are defined by statute; and,
  • He is in possession of no more marijuana than is necessary to maintain a sixty-day supply; and,
  • He presents valid documentation (i.e., either a medical marijuana license and/or a designated provider license, plus proof of identity) to any law enforcement officer who asks for it.

A qualifying patient or designated provider who demonstrates compliance with the Act’s requirements also establishes an affirmative defense to charges that he violated state law relating to marijuana. Once compliance is established, the patient or designated provider may not be penalized in any manner or denied his right to use or possess marijuana in processed or plant form.

Remember, Washington's medical marijuana law establishes an affirmative defense to criminal charges.  Patients may still encounter harassing searches by law enforcement, arrest, incarceration, and prosecution.  See the Fry decision.

Walla Walla criminal defense attorneys Andrea Burkhart and Elizabeth Halls are qualified to assist you with your legal rights and responsibilities regarding medical marijuana in Washington. Contact Burkhart and Burkhart today for assistance.

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