Medical Cannabis Laws and Rules Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to have arrest protection with the recognition card?

According to RCW 69.51A.040(1)(a) The qualifying patient or designated provider may not be arrested if he or she has been entered into the medical cannabis authorization database and holds a valid recognition card and possesses no more than the amount of cannabis concentrates, useable cannabis, plants, or cannabis-infused products authorized under RCW 69.51A.210.

What does it mean to have an affirmative defense?

Qualifying patients or designated providers who are not entered in the medical cannabis authorization database and do not have a recognition card, but who present their medical cannabis authorization to any law enforcement officer who questions the patient or provider regarding their medical use of cannabis, may assert an affirmative defense to charges of violations of state law relating to cannabis through proof at trial, by a preponderance of the evidence, that they otherwise meet the requirements of RCW 69.51A.040. A qualifying patient or designated provider meeting the conditions of this subsection, but possessing more cannabis than the limits set forth in RCW 69.51A.210(3), may, in the investigating law enforcement officer's discretion, be taken into custody and booked into jail in connection with the investigation of the incident.

Is there an exception for medical cannabis patients driving under the influence of cannabis?

No. According to RCW 69.51A.060(8) No person shall be entitled to claim the protection from arrest and prosecution under RCW 69.51A.040 or the affirmative defense under RCW 69.51A.043 for engaging in the medical use of cannabis in a way that endangers the health or well-being of any person through the use of a motorized vehicle on a street, road, or highway, including violations of RCW 46.61.502 or 46.61.504, or equivalent local ordinances.

Does my doctor have to authorize cannabis if I have a qualifying condition?

No. According to RCW 69.51A.060(3) Nothing in this chapter requires any health care professional to authorize the medical use of cannabis for a patient.

May healthcare practitioners use cannabis-infused oils or lotions in their practice?

According to RCW 69.50.575, items containing 0.3% THC or less are considered hemp or a cannabis health and beauty aid (CHABA). These products are legal for healthcare practitioners to use in their practice. It's not within the scope of practice for healthcare practitioners in Washington State to use any products, including topical lotions and oils that contain more than 0.3% THC on their clients – regardless of being medical or recreational and regardless of whether the client provides the product. In applying cannabis oils or lotions as part of therapy, the practitioner would be illegally administering a Schedule 1 drug.

May I be fired from my job if I use medical cannabis?

Yes. According to RCW 69.51A.060(7) Employers may establish drug-free work policies. Nothing in this chapter requires an accommodation for the medical use of cannabis if an employer has a drug-free workplace.

May my 19 year old son get an authorization without my approval?

Yes. The law considers patients 18 and older as adults as referenced in RCW 69.51A.0302(c) For a qualifying patient eighteen years of age or older, an authorization expires one year after its issuance. For a qualifying patient less than eighteen years of age, an authorization expires six months after its issuance. Therefore, a qualifying patient age 18 or older is considered an adult under this law and does not require a parent to be their designated provider.

May I be a medical cannabis patient and grow when I have children in the home?

Yes. According to RCW 69.51A.120 A qualifying patient or designated provider may not have his or her parental rights or residential time with a child restricted solely due to his or her medical use of cannabis in compliance with the terms of this chapter absent written findings supported by evidence that such use has resulted in a long-term impairment that interferes with the performance of parenting functions as defined under RCW 26.09.004.

My son who is a patient in the database got arrested and went to jail. The court is not allowing him to use his medication while in jail or when he gets out on probation. Is that legal?

Yes. According to RCW 69.51A.005(4) Nothing in this chapter diminishes the authority of correctional agencies and departments, including local governments or jails, to establish a procedure for determining when the use of cannabis would impact community safety or the effective supervision of those on active supervision for a criminal conviction, nor does it create the right to any accommodation of any medical use of cannabis in any correctional facility or jail.

What is considered a plant?

According to RCW 69.51A.010(17) A cannabis plant having at least three distinguishable and distinct leaves, each leaf being at least three centimeters in diameter, and a readily observable root formation consisting of at least two separate and distinct roots, each being at least two centimeters in length. Multiple stalks emanating from the same root ball or root system is considered part of the same single plant.

Do I have to allow my renters to use or grow cannabis if they have a medical cannabis authorization or card?

No. It is up to landlords to establish whether they will allow the use of cannabis within the rental agreement. Having an authorization or recognition card does not give a renter the right to violate a rental agreement. See below.

Do I have rights as a tenant who is a medical cannabis patient to use cannabis?

No. As a tenant you have no legal right to grow or smoke cannabis even if you are medically authorized and have a recognition card. It is at the discretion of the landlord as to whether you receive that permission within the lease agreement. Under the federal Fair Housing Act, housing providers are ordinarily obligated to provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities to ensure that they have the full use and enjoyment of their homes. However, the federal Fair Housing Act reasonable accommodation provisions exclude from protection the current use of a "controlled substance" under federal law. Even though medical cannabis is legal under Washington law, it is not legal under federal law.

I have questions that the Department of Health cannot answer. How do I get help finding the answers?

Other laws may apply to some situations. We suggest getting legal advice if you're not sure what the law says. You may also consult groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Commission. All state laws are on the Washington State Legislature website.