Let’s be clear: Washington voters legalized weed for adults, not minors. Minors can’t legally possess pot. Under state law, it remains a felony to sell to minors or furnish minors. Even the most prominent of the technically illegal delivery services that have sprung up in Seattle won’t serve minors. Keeping pot away from minors is one of the eight priorities laid down by the U.S. Department of Justice in allowing Colorado and Washington to proceed with their legal pot experiments.
How old must you be to legally buy or possess pot in Washington?
You have to be at least 21 to legally buy or possess pot. Minors can’t even go into legal pot stores or any state-licensed pot businesses, meaning legal growers and processors can’t bring their own children into their workplace for a tour. Minors can’t work in the legal pot industry.
Q: How will the new law be policed?
The state Liquor Control Board plans to employ minors to conduct sting operations at legal pot stores. Sales or service to a minor by a licensed store will result in a 10-day license suspension or $2,500 fine for the first violation. A second violation will lead to a 30-day suspension and a third will cause a cancelled license. If you want to purchase legal pot, you had better bring valid identification with you to the store.
Q: What about tourists and out-of-state friends? Can they purchase, possess and consume if they’re 21?
Adults from out-of-state are treated no differently from Washington residents by our law. They may purchase and possess up to one ounce of pot. That is different from Colorado, where out-of-staters are only allowed to buy one-quarter of an ounce. Because Colorado is surrounded by states with conservative pot laws, and because of its central location, its officials were more concerned about “smurfing,” the practice of aggregating small amounts of drugs and then smuggling them out-of-state. With abundant weed to the north and south of Washington state, officials here did not see smurfing as a problem. The challenge for tourists is finding places to legally consume, as our law forbids consumption in view of the general public. See our “Where to Consume” FAQ for more.
Q: By the way, how much is an ounce of pot in practical terms?
Joints can obviously vary in size. Snoop Dogg’s blunts are probably much bigger than Martha Stewart’s “bones.” A half-gram is a reasonable estimate for the weight of an average joint. That means an ounce, at 28.4 grams, would yield roughly 57 joints.
Q: Will the state track my legal pot purchases?
State officials say no. Retail stores will check ID but will not keep records of who buys pot, never mind how much.
Can medical-marijuana patients buy pot in the new retail stores?
Yes. While the new law is often described as a “recreational pot” law, it does not differentiate between types of consumers. All are treated the same under the law, for now. That means, however, that medical patients will pay the same stiff taxes as recreational users. Taxes include state and local sales tax, plus a 25-percent retail excise tax. Producers and processors also pay a 25-percent excise tax when they sell to retailers. Expect the state Legislature to more strictly regulate medical marijuana next year. That could lead to some stores having a separate section for medical patients, with trained budtenders, and perhaps even lower taxes.