Recreational cannabis was approved in Washington in 2012. While Washington may have been one of the first states to approve recreational weed, it’s the most conservative in its regulations. Washington is the only state among those with legal weed that prohibits any home cultivation (Illinois permits only home cultivation for medical purposes). It also forbids home delivery and cannabis social lounges.
Like Oregon, Washington State has liberal commercial cultivation laws, and because of that, there’s a huge surplus, and extremely low prices. Couple this with relatively easy availability of purchase (there are over 100+ retail dispensaries in the state, and many more “medically endorsed” outlets), it’s not surprising that adult consumption is at one of the highest levels in the nation, and growing. Teen consumption, on the other hand, is declining.
Washington’s burgeoning tech sector has discovered cannabis, and the state is a hotbed of cannabis related tech companies.
Cannabis Laws Washington vs. Massachusetts
Laws governing home cultivation and personal possession in Oregon and Massachusetts are very similar:
|In-Home cannabis cultivation||Illegal||6-12 plants*|
|In-Home cannabis possession||1oz.||10 oz.|
|Personal cannabis possession outside the home||1oz.||1 oz.|
|Personal extract possession at home||7g.||5 g.|
*Each 21 year-old in a household, up to two may have 6 plants
Washington state does not permit home grow cultivation; laws governing home grow cultivation in Massachusetts allow up to twelve plants.
According to iFiberone News, in fiscal year 2018, “…the Washington State Liquor & Cannabis Board said the State of Washington made $362 million in cannabis tax revenue, while the state collected $5.4 million in cannabis license fees alone.” That was a 15% increase over fiscal year 2017. To put in perspective what that means for the state, they compared 2018 cannabis revenue to liquor revenue, where the state collected only $209.8 million.
The tax rate on cannabis is 17% in Oregon, equal to the combined 10.75% excise tax and 6.25% sales tax in Massachusetts.
Trends in Consumption
Reporting on a novel approach to measuring consumption, Medical Marijuana said “A team of researchers recently studied public waste samples in Western Washington to find if the state’s legalization of recreational cannabis has impacted consumption rates. Their findings indicate a significant increase in cannabis use by the region’s population. At the same time, when compared to older statistics, data suggests a shift from illicit cannabis sales to legal sales.” This same study, reported also by Leafly, went on to compare the Puget Sound/Seattle area against other cities worldwide and found “…the Puget Sound area has the highest cannabis use per capita, even over Amsterdam.”
This may in part be due to the oversupply of local cannabis and with it, a crash in prices. Ounces, with taxes, typically sell for $100 or less—sometimes as low as $40!
The Seattle Times reported on a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association, claiming that teen use of cannabis has declined in the state since legalization. “Use among 8th graders dropped from 9.8 to 7.3 percent over that period and among 10th graders, use fell from 19.8 to 17.8 percent. Use by seniors remained flat at just over one in four students, 26.7 percent, during that period, according the study.”
In a move to curtail use by children, the state considered a ban on edibles. Instead, new regulations were adopted in 2018 that are designed to make edibles and edible packaging less attractive to kids. They can only be made in a palette of earth tones; they can’t be bright colors or toy or cartoon shaped and they must display universal cannabis and not for kids symbols.
While both the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest have seen a boom in cannabis tech start-ups, legalization came six years earlier to Washington State, giving it a jump on other markets. According to Geekwire, “Not only has this region been “the epicenter of cannabis culture in North America,” but it is also a “hub for innovative tech companies,” said Tim Leslie, who recently left an executive role at Amazon to become CEO at Seattle-based marijuana discovery platform Leafly.” The cannabis tech scene is evolving rapidly. Geekwire reports “And where cannabis-tech companies have typically sought to connect a fragmented, cash-only business emerging (more or less) from the black market, many are now talking about even more sophisticated systems — AI, computer vision, cryptocurrency and big data.”
Like its sister states in the West, Washington has growing cannabis tourism and alternative health sectors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are cannabis laws different in Washington from those in Massachusetts?
Regulations around personal possession are similar in both states, but Washington does not permit home cannabis cultivation.
Is it easier or harder to purchase cannabis in Oregon?
Washington made recreational dispensary permitting easier, so there over 100 recreational dispensaries now in the state and many more licensed medical operations. A glut of legal cannabis has driven prices way down, with some dispensaries selling weed for under $100 an ounce.
Has legalization changed cannabis consumption in Oregon?
Adult consumption has grown significantly—one study estimate it has doubled since legalization. Consumption by teens, though has declined. While these trends are correlated with cannabis legalization, but legalization may not have caused them.
What new ideas are coming out of Washington that we can expect here in the future?
Washington State has become a hub of cannabis technology. With our own strong tech sector, entrepreneurial culture and venture capital, we may see a boom in cannabis-related tech start-ups here as well
Many alternative health practitioners are embracing cannabis, and are using it in their practices.