Concerning the Legalization of Marijuana

Washington Ballot Measure - Initiative 502

Election: Nov. 6, 2012 (General)

Outcome: Passed




The Law as it Presently Exists

It is a crime under both Washington and federal law to grow, distribute, or possess marijuana, or to involve a minor in a marijuana-related offense.

State law generally makes these crimes felonies. People convicted of felonies can serve time in state prison. People who possess 40 grams or less of marijuana, however, commit a misdemeanor. It is also a misdemeanor to make, possess, or deliver any paraphernalia used to grow, store, conceal, or use marijuana. Those convicted of misdemeanors can serve up to 90 days in a local jail. Minors who grow, distribute, or possess marijuana can be punished through juvenile court.

It is not a state law crime, however, to grow, distribute or possess marijuana with respect to certain medical uses or with respect to medical research, under certain conditions.

Washington law also makes it illegal to drive under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug. State law provides that every person who drives in Washington has consented to a test to find out whether he or she has alcohol or any drug in his or her blood. The results of these tests can be used in criminal trials, and in proceedings to suspend, revoke, or deny a driver’s license. The state can also suspend, revoke, or deny the driver’s license of a person who refuses the test.

Like state law, federal law also makes it a crime to grow, distribute, or possess marijuana. People also commit a federal crime if they provide places for growing, distributing, or storing marijuana. It is also a federal crime to use a telephone to buy or sell marijuana. Federal law makes all of these crimes felonies, except that it makes possessing marijuana a misdemeanor. Like state law, federal law allows limited use of marijuana for medical research, but does not allow medical use of marijuana.

State law cannot modify the federal laws making it a crime to grow, distribute, or possess marijuana.

The Effect of the Proposed Measure, if Approved

For persons over age 21, this measure would remove state law criminal and civil prohibitions with respect to growing, manufacturing, distributing, and possessing marijuana consistent with a state marijuana licensing and regulatory system.

Without violating state law, people over age 21 could grow, distribute, or possess marijuana, as authorized under various types of licenses. People could only buy limited amounts of marijuana at a time, and possession of marijuana by people over age 21 in amounts that do not exceed that limit would not violate state law. It would still be a crime to grow, distribute, or possess marijuana except by following the licensing and other requirements of this measure.

A license to produce marijuana would make it legal under state law to grow marijuana. A license to process marijuana would make it legal under state law to process and package marijuana. It would also make it legal under state law to make products that contain marijuana. Licensed producers and processors could sell marijuana at wholesale, but could not sell marijuana at retail directly to consumers. Licensed retailers could sell marijuana, and products containing marijuana, to consumers at retail. Licensed retailers could also sell paraphernalia items used to store or use marijuana.

It would cost $250 to apply for a license. It would also cost $1,000 every year to get and keep a license. A separate license would be required for each location. Locations could not be within 1,000 feet of any school, playground, recreation centers, child care center, park, transit center, library, or game arcade. Producers and processors could not have any financial interest in any licensed marijuana retailer.

It would still be a state law crime for a person under age 21 to grow, sell, or possess marijuana. It also would remain illegal under state law for anybody, including people who have licenses under this measure, to sell marijuana or products containing marijuana to people under 21 years old.

Licensed marijuana retailers could not sell any products other than marijuana and items used to store or use marijuana. Licensed marijuana retailers could not allow people under age 21 on their premises. Signs posted by licensed marijuana retailers that are visible to the public would be limited in size and content. No marijuana could be displayed in a way that is visible from a public place. It would be illegal to open or consume any marijuana product on the premises. Licensed marijuana retailers could be fined for violations. This measure would prohibit any person from opening a package containing marijuana in public view.

This measure would limit advertising of marijuana. Advertisements would need to be at least 1,000 feet away from any school, playground, recreation center, child care center, park, transit center, library, or game arcade. Advertisements would be banned from buses and light rail, and from government property.

The state could deny, suspend, or cancel licenses. Local governments could submit objections for the state to consider in determining whether to grant or renew a license. The state could inspect the premises of any license holder. Prior criminal conduct could be considered for purposes of granting, renewing, denying, suspending or revoking a license. The state could not issue a license to anybody under age 21. The state could adopt further rules to implement this measure.

This measure would require licensed producers and processors to submit marijuana samples to an independent lab for regular testing. The state would receive test results. Marijuana that does not satisfy state standards would be destroyed.

Sales of marijuana would be taxed. Marijuana excise taxes, in the amount of 25% of the selling price, would be collected on all sales of marijuana, at each level of production and distribution. Sale by a marijuana producer to a marijuana processor would be subject to a 25% tax. A sale by the processor to a retailer would be subject to an additional 25% tax. Sales of marijuana by a retailer would be subject to an additional 25% tax. State and local sales taxes would also apply to retail sales of marijuana.

The measure directs the state to spend designated amounts from the marijuana excise taxes, license fees, penalties, and forfeitures for certain purposes. Those purposes include spending fixed dollar amounts on: administration of this measure; a survey of youth regarding substance use and other information; a cost-benefit evaluation of the implementation of this measure; and web-based public education materials about health and safety risks posed by marijuana use. Remaining money would be distributed as follows: 50% for the state basic health plan; 15% for programs and practices aimed at prevention or reduction of substance abuse; 10% for marijuana education; 5% for other health services; 1% for research on short-term and long-terms effects of marijuana use; and .75% for a program that seeks to prevent school dropouts. The remaining 18.25% would be distributed to the state general fund.

This measure would also amend the law that prohibits driving under the influence. It would specifically prohibit driving under the influence of marijuana. Consent to testing to determine whether a driver’s blood contains alcohol or any drug would specifically apply to marijuana as well. State law that currently specifies a level of blood alcohol concentration for driving under the influence would be amended to also specify a level of the active ingredient in marijuana. A person who drives with a higher blood concentration of that active ingredient, or who is otherwise under the influence of marijuana, would be guilty of driving under the influence. For persons under 21, any level of the active ingredient of marijuana would be prohibited.

Federal marijuana laws could still be enforced in Washington.

Measure Text

Initiative Measure No. 502 concerns marijuana.

This measure would license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession for persons over twenty-one; remove state-law criminal and civil penalties for activities that it authorizes; tax marijuana sales; and earmark marijuana-related revenues.

Should this measure be enacted into law?
[ ] Yes
[ ] No


Official Summary