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Washington Medical Marijuana: What are the State Laws

Navigating the complexities of the legal landscape surrounding Washington medical marijuana can be daunting, especially for first-time patients. The laws governing the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes differ significantly from those for recreational use, but rest assured, our goal in this blog post is to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the state's medical marijuana program.

Seal of Washington State with marijuana leaf

What is Medical Marijuana?

Before diving into the Washington-specific laws, let's first understand what medical marijuana is. Medical marijuana refers to the use of the cannabis plant or its chemicals for treating health conditions. Medical marijuana products are similar to those used for recreational purposes, but they are typically prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider to treat specific medical needs of a qualifying patient. These patients often suffer from health conditions such as chronic pain or intractable pain, for which traditional treatment options may have been ineffective.

Qualifying for Medical Marijuana in Washington State

Under Washington state law, to qualify for medical cannabis use, you must be a Washington resident with a qualifying medical condition. The list of these conditions includes, but is not limited to, chronic pain, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. A healthcare practitioner or general practitioner can determine if a patient has a qualifying condition based on their medical records. Once a qualifying condition has been established, the next step is obtaining a medical cannabis authorization.

Medical Cannabis Authorizations and Recognition Cards

The state of Washington has a medical marijuana authorization database, a state database for medical marijuana patients and their designated providers. The medical marijuana authorization form is completed by a health care professional confirming the patient's qualifying condition and is then entered into the state's voluntary patient database.

Apart from the authorization, there's another essential document: the medical marijuana recognition card or medical card. This card identifies you as a legal user of medical marijuana under state law. Although not mandatory, medical marijuana cardholders receive certain benefits, such as sales tax exemption on their purchases from medically-endorsed retail stores and increased legal protections.

Medical Cannabis Patient Rights and Limits

Washington's medical marijuana laws grant specific rights and limits to patients. Qualified patients can purchase, possess, and grow certain amounts of marijuana for their personal medical use. Washington state law specifies these limits:

  • Up to three ounces of useable marijuana

  • Up to 48 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form

  • Up to 216 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form

  • Up to 21 grams of marijuana concentrates

  • The right to grow up to six marijuana plants at their private residence, with the option to grow up to 15 plants if their healthcare practitioner believes it is necessary for their medical needs.

Patients also have the right to purchase seeds, clones, and plants from any licensed dispensary.

Designated Providers

A designated provider is someone chosen by the medical cannabis patient to assist with their use of medical marijuana. According to the Washington State Department of Health, a designated provider must be at least 21 years of age and cannot be the provider for more than one patient at a time. The designated provider must also have a recognition card.

Medical Marijuana Consultants

through ARCannabisClinic, assists patients in understanding the potential risks and benefits of using medical marijuana. These consultants provide valuable insights into the types of products that might benefit the patient. By offering cannabis expert consultations, ARCannabisClinic ensures that patients are equipped with the necessary knowledge before they step foot into a dispensary.

Differences Between Medical and Recreational Cannabis

In Washington, having a medical marijuana card as a part of the state's medical marijuana program offers a myriad of benefits compared to recreational marijuana use. Medical marijuana cardholders have the ability to possess larger quantities of cannabis, including up to three ounces of usable marijuana, 48 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, 216 ounces in liquid form, and 21 grams of marijuana concentrates. Compared to recreational users, these limits far exceed the legal limit of one ounce of usable cannabis, 16 ounces of solid marijuana-infused product, and 72 ounces of liquid marijuana-infused product. Notably, while recreational users must purchase their marijuana from state-licensed retail stores, medical marijuana patients have the right to cultivate their own marijuana plants at their private residence, offering them greater control over their treatment options. Furthermore, the medical cannabis card provides sales tax exemptions on purchases made at medically-endorsed retail stores, making it a financially prudent option. Lastly, medical marijuana cardholders can also access the expert services of organizations like ARCannabisClinic for personalized cannabis consultations, adding a layer of support and guidance that's not readily available to recreational users.

bowl of buds at a marijuana dispensary in Washington

Legal Considerations

The legal landscape of marijuana, both medical and recreational, is a complex weave of regulations that patients and users need to understand.

Federal vs State Law

While marijuana use is legal under Washington state law, it's crucial to remember that it remains illegal at the federal level. This disparity can lead to unique legal complications. For instance, while you can legally possess and use marijuana within Washington's borders, crossing into another state—even if it has its own legal marijuana laws—can potentially result in federal trafficking charges.

Moreover, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under federal law. This classification means that in the eyes of the federal government, it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Despite this, as long as you comply with Washington state's medical marijuana laws, federal authorities have typically not intervened in states where marijuana is legalized.

Employment and Drug Testing

One of the significant areas of concern for many individuals using medical marijuana is employment. Drug testing is a common practice in many industries. Because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, employers can dismiss or choose not to hire individuals who test positive for cannabis use, even if it is for medical purposes.

Driving and Marijuana

Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in Washington state, similar to driving under the influence of alcohol. It's important for medical marijuana patients to understand that they should not operate a vehicle while using cannabis, as this can result in serious legal penalties.

Housing and Marijuana Use

Marijuana use can also have implications for housing. Federal housing policies still classify marijuana as an illegal substance, and residents who use marijuana can potentially face eviction, even for medical use. This policy extends to both public housing and private rental properties that fall under federal jurisdiction.

Marijuana and Firearms

Federal law prohibits marijuana users from owning or purchasing firearms, regardless of their state's marijuana legalization laws. This can potentially impact medical marijuana cardholders who own firearms or are interested in purchasing one.

Navigating these legal considerations can be complex and challenging, but it's vital for anyone considering using medical marijuana. It's always recommended that individuals consult with legal professionals or trusted organizations, like ARCannabisClinic, who are familiar with the intricacies of marijuana laws, to fully understand the potential implications.


At ARCannabisClinic, we are committed to helping patients navigate the complexities of the medical marijuana landscape. As a trusted national medical marijuana health technology company, we're here to assist you with every step of the process – from understanding your eligibility for a medical marijuana card to identifying suitable medical cannabis treatment options. Our goal is to simplify the process for you while ensuring you get the help you need.

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