Last year, Washington passed new marijuana laws and is merging its medical and retail cannabis programs. By July 1, 2016, when the merger is complete, medical cannabis users will be able to register in a state database and get a recognition card allowing them to buy three times the amounts that retail users can, along with other benefits.
Most existing medical marijuana dispensaries will close and new stores will open, some licensed to sell medical cannabis products with a medical endorsement through the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB). Purchase and possession limits will vary depending on your status as an authorized, registered, or retail user, so be sure to track the laws effective starting July 1, 2016.
Here are 9 steps for how to purchase medical cannabis in Washington:
1. Learn If You Qualify
Patients suffering from cancer, Cachexia, Crohn’s disease, Glaucoma, Hepatitis C, HIV or AIDS, chronic pain, muscle spasms, nausea, PTSD, seizures, or traumatic brain injury can ask their doctor for an authorization to buy medical cannabis. You may also qualify if you have a condition that significantly interferes with your daily life or your ability to function.
2. See Your Doctor
Ask your doctor, nurse, physician assistant, or naturopathic physician to fill out a Washington State Medical Marijuana Authorization Form provided by the Department of Health.
3. Designate a Provider (Optional)
You can select a designated provider (in writing) to buy cannabis on your behalf. The designated person must be at least 21 and can only be a provider for one patient at a time.
4. Register in the State Database (Optional)
It is not mandatory to register with Washington’s medical marijuana database but starting July 1, 2016, authorized patients who register will get a recognition card that allows increased purchase and possession amounts. Visit a medically endorsed store with your doctor’s authorization, pay $1 for your card, and the certified medical marijuana consultant will enter your information into the database.
5. Know the Limits
Medical users registered in the state database will be able to purchase: 3 oz. useable cannabis, 48 oz. cannabis-infused solids, 216 oz. cannabis-infused liquids or 21 g. cannabis concentrate.
If you hold a valid authorization from your doctor but choose not to enroll in the database, you can purchase marijuana like any adult Washingtonian retail user. If you choose to purchase your marijuana this way, limits are: 1 oz. usable cannabis, 16 oz. cannabis-infused solids, 72 oz. cannabis-infused liquid or 7 g. concentrates. Be sure to keep track of the possession limits that correspond to your user status (authorized, registered, retail).
6. Find a Store
Look for retail stores that advertise the endorsement to sell medical cannabis through the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board. These outlets will have trained budtenders and offer products for different conditions. Be sure to check out Leafly and the updated list of Washington’s medically licensed stores.
7. Grow Your Own
Starting July 1, 2016, medical users registered in the database and their designated providers will be allowed to have 6 plants or, with a doctor’s approval in writing, up to 15 plants. You can also start a gardening cooperative with up to three friends, housing up to 60 plants. Keep in mind, the state provides for different grow limits for non registered and retail users.
8. Pay (Some) Taxes
Medical users registered in the state database will not pay sales tax on medical cannabis. However, medical or retail, all users will be subject to a 37% excise tax on purchases.
9. Follow The Law
You can’t consume your cannabis while driving, in a car, in a retail outlet, or in public. You also can’t smoke it where smoking is otherwise prohibited. Remember, cannabis is still illegal under federal law, so don’t bring your cannabis to national parks and/or forests in the state. If you’re traveling to another state where medical cannabis is legal, check first to see if your WA medical card is recognized in that state.