SUMMARY: Fifty-nine percent of voters approved Measure 692 on November 3, 1998. The law took effect on that day. It removes state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess “valid documentation” from their physician affirming that he or she suffers from a debilitating condition and that the “potential benefits of the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks.” Patients diagnosed with the following illnesses are afforded legal protection under this act: cachexia; cancer; HIV or AIDS; epilepsy; glaucoma; intractable pain (defined as pain unrelieved by standard treatment or medications); and multiple sclerosis. Other conditions are subject to approval by the Washington Board of Health. Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess or cultivate no more than a 60-day supply of marijuana. The law does not establish a state-run patient registry.
The medical use provisions in Washington do not include reciprocity provisions protecting visitors from other medical use states.
Senate Bill 6032, mandated the Department of Health to “adopt rules defining the quantity of marijuana that could reasonably be presumed to be a sixty-day supply for qualifying patients.” In October 2008, the department finalized guidelines allowing patients to cultivate up to 15 cannabis plants and/or possess up to 24 ounces of usable marijuana. The new limits took effect on November 2, 2008.
Patients who possess larger quantities of cannabis than those approved by the Department will continue to receive legal protection under the law if they present evidence indicating that they require such amounts to adequately treat their qualifying medical condition.
Senate Bill 6032 also affirmed changes previously recommended by the state’s Medical Quality Assurance Commission to expand the state’s list of qualifying conditions to include Crohn’s disease, hepatitis c, and any “diseases, including anorexia, which results in nausea, vomiting, wasting, appetite loss, cramping, seizures, muscle spasms, and/or spasticity, when these symptoms are unrelieved by standard treatments or medications.”
It also limits the ability of police to seize medicinal cannabis that is “determined … [to be] possessed lawfully [by an authorized patients] under the … law.”
ADDITIONAL AMMENDMENTS: Yes.
Senate Bill 5798 allows additional health care professionals including naturopaths, physician’s assistants, osteopathic physicians, osteopathic physicians assistants, and advanced registered nurse practitioners to legally recommend marijuana therapy to their patients. The new law will take effect on June 10, 2010.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA STATUTES: Wash. Rev. Code §§ 69.51A – 69.51A.901 (2007).
CAREGIVERS: Yes. Designated provider is a person who has been designated in writing by a patient to serve as a designated provider. The caregiver must be 18 years of age or older. The designated provider is prohibited from consuming marijuana obtained for the personal, medical use of the patient for whom the individual is acting as designated provider. The designated provider may be the primary caregiver for only one patient at any one time. Wash. Rev. Code §§69.51A.010, 69.51A.040 (2007).
CONTACT INFORMATION: Fact sheets outlining Washington’s medical marijuana law are available from:
Washington State Department of Health
101 Israel Road SE
Tumwater, WA 98501
Attention: Glenda Moore
ACLU of Washington, Drug Reform Project