Marijuana in Washington – It’s Only Legal if you Know All the Rules

pot joint


On December 6, 2012, after a 56% to 44% vote in favor of I-502, adults in Washington State were allowed to possess one ounce of marijuana for personal use.

For those who may not be familiar with the particulars of marijuana, it is not measured in ounces; it is measured in grams. One ounce equals 28.3495 grams. The typical joint is .5 to .75 grams; meaning one ounce could create 38 to 56 joints, depending on which size you make. It could also make one really big joint if you want to re-enact the scene from that Cheech and Chong movie.

Regulated weed

Now that Washington State will be regulating and taxing marijuana, a Pandora’s box of laws and regulations will be attached to your legal joint.

Legal marijuana will only be available by licensed growers, producers, and retailers. Washington State is now in the business of marijuana, and they want their cut from everyone involved. Your legal ounce of marijuana may soon be illegal if you can’t show that you purchased it from a licensed retailer.

Some government sources believe the possible annual revenue from marijuana could net the state $2 billion, depending on sales to citizens and marijuana tourists. Like any business, they will most likely take unauthorized competition seriously.

Law enforcement won’t be as concerned about protecting you and the citizens of Washington from the dangers of pot any more, they will however, be aggressively defending the coffers of the government. Where marijuana used to be a low to medium priority for police, it may become a high priority for financial reasons.

The pitfalls of possession

Despite what many people think, I-502 did not create a free-for-all. Here are the areas where you will need to be wary:

• Your employer can still demand a drug-free workplace and continue to test you for cannabis
• You can still be DUI for marijuana when you reach a “delta-9” THC level at greater than or equal to 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood (5 ng/mL)
• Even if you receive a license to grow marijuana from the State of Washington, the Federal Government can still prosecute you and seize all of your assets
• You aren’t allowed to smoke pot in public
• You aren’t allowed to take your legal one ounce of pot across state lines
• Airlines will not allow you to bring your marijuana on board
• Possession of marijuana by anyone under 21 is still a crime

Ounce for 28.3495 grams

As mentioned above, marijuana is usually measured in grams. Washington stipulates the legal amount at one ounce. Strangely, though, when the state wants to measure the amount they deem bad enough to throw the book at you they measure it in grams. In case you are bad at converting ounces to grams, it may be important to pay attention here.

If you are found possessing over one ounce of marijuana but less than 40 grams, you could be found guilty of a misdemeanor with fines between $250 and $500, up to 90 days in jail, or both.

However, if you have in your possession 40 or more grams of marijuana, the penalty includes a fine of up to $10,000, up to five years in prison, or both.

Now, here is the kicker; 40 grams of marijuana is only 4/10ths of an ounce more than one ounce, or 1.41 ounces. Thinking this through, it doesn’t matter if the local WeedMart sells marijuana in ounces or grams, anyone who doesn’t want to face flak from law enforcement should invest in a digital pocket scale that weighs in both grams and ounces. Available for $25 or more, they are usually pretty accurate. Think of it as your own breathalyzer, except it only measures how much pot you have left, not how much you have smoked. So unless you know the formula well enough to figure out your THC level while high, you probably shouldn’t drive.

One more caveat that may come up; will possessing 2 or 3 joints be sufficient probable cause to conduct a further search to determine how much marijuana you actually have in your car, backpack, or Prada bag? And will those three legal joints result in the police finding your illegal stash of Percocet?


Now that the government is in the marijuana business, you can expect the rules, regulations, and laws to change regularly. If however, legal marijuana turns into a golden goose for the state, they probably won’t take any steps to hurt sales.

Regardless, “legalizing” marijuana may have created an entire new level of legal scrutiny from law enforcement. Maybe Washington’s midnight celebration on Dec. 6, 2012 was premature. Time will tell.

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