Equity Project State Briefing
Is Cannabis Legal in Washington?
Cannabis in Washington is legal for both medical and adult use.
Date of Legalization
Washington legalized cannabis for medical use in 1998 though ballot initiative I-692. In 2012, Washington became the first U.S. state to legalize cannabis for adult use (through ballot initiative I-502).
In March 2020, Gov. Inslee signed HB 2870 to create a state level social equity program.
Within Washington’s adult use framework adults 21+ may possess up to 1 ounce of usable marijuana , 16 ounces of marijuana-infused edibles in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form, and 7 grams of marijuana concentrates. Individuals are not permitted to grow cannabis within their home for adult use. Within Washington’s medical framework Medical patients may possess up to 3 ounces of usable marijuana; Forty-eight ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form; two hundred sixteen ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form; or twenty-one grams of marijuana concentrates. The qualifying patient may also home grow up to six plants and possess up to eight ounces of useable marijuana produced from his or her plants.
Other Licensing Provisions
- License Caps:
Washington has licensing caps as it is a limited license state. The statewide cap is 556. Localities may also impose license caps or opt out of participating in the adult use sector all together.
Application Selection Process
- Selection System:
Washington has a merit-based award system used to distribute adult use licenses.
Felony Disqualification on Ownership
- Ownership Exclusion for Felony Convictions:
- Exemption for Cannabis Offenses:
Washington’s adult use framework disqualifies applicants for cannabis licensure on the basis of their conviction history. However, as of Oct 2021, the state revised their background check methodology in order to make licenses more accessible to individuals who have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis criminalization. Individuals with certain conviction types within a certain period will have to undergo a threshold review for the board to evaluate additional criteria to determine if the individual should be granted a license.
Under new rules, Class A and B felonies within a 10 year look back period will be considered. An individual with one or more of these convictions will have to undergo threshold review.
Class C felonies within a 7 year look back period will be considered. An individual with two or more of these convictions will have to undergo threshold review.
Gross misdemeanors and misdemeanors within a 3 year look back period will be considered. An individual with three or more of these convictions will have to undergo threshold review.
If an application is sent to a threshold review, applicants will have an opportunity to submit information on their behalf for LCB to consider as the application is reviewed. When a background check results in a determination for a threshold review, the board will consider the following criteria:
(a) Time since the conviction, or pending offenses;
(b) Nature and specific circumstances of the offense;
(c) Relationship of the offense or incident to the nature of the work performed;
(d) Number of offenses or incidents;
(e) If criminal, any relevant evidence of rehabilitation, such as information about compliance with conditions of parole or probation, including orders of no contact with victims and witnesses, and the individual’s conduct and experience since the time of the offense; and
(f) Any other relevant information, including information submitted by the applicant or licensee, or requested by the board.
Employee Criminal Records
- Conviction Restrictions for Employees:
- Exemption for Cannabis Offenses:
Within the adult use sector, Washington does not require state level background checks on cannabis employees. Employers may however elect to conduct a background check so long as it is in compliance with Washington’s Fair Chance Act, also known as Ban the Box.
Availability of Expungements
Every person convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses may petition the court to vacate their conviction. Individuals with certain qualifying felonies may petition for a vacature after a variation of times depending on the offense.
Social Equity Definition / Criteria
In Washington, a “Social Equity Applicant” is:
In order to be considered for a retail license an applicant must be a social equity applicant and submit a social equity plan along with other marijuana retailer license application requirements to the board. While not a requirement of the social equity program specifically, cannabis licensure applicants must be residents of the state for at least six months.
Social Equity Provisions
In order to be considered for a retail license in Washington, an applicant must be a social equity applicant and submit a social equity plan. Washington State’s social equity provisions include technical assistance grants, priority licensing, regulatory compliance training and financial management training and assistance in seeking financing. Activities eligible for funding under the grant program include, but are not limited to, assistance with the marijuana retailer licensing process, marijuana business education and business plan development, regulatory compliance training, and connecting the social equity applicant with established industry members.
License Priorities and Set Asides
Under 2020 social equity legislation, The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Control Board may only issue new or revoked licenses to social equity applicants. The board may prioritize applicants based on the extent to which the application addresses the components of the social equity plan.
Fee Waivers and Reductions
Washington does not offer fee reductions. The annual fee for issuance, re-issuance, or renewal for social equity license holders is the same as for general applicants.
Other Financial Support for Social Equity Applicants and Licensees
In Washington state, a total of $1,100,000 annually shall be paid to the department of commerce to fund the cannabis social equity program. The department receives its money from”The Dedicated Marijuana Fund.”