Although cannabis has been in use for thousands of years, it has recently become a hot-button issue. Whereas some states have leeway as to how marijuana should be consumed and distributed, it is still federally classified as a Schedule I drug.
However, things are quickly changing. Public perception has shifted, and more individuals than ever before are open to redesigning the laws regarding cannabis. To that end, it has become more acceptable for individuals from many walks of life to use cannabis in their daily lives.
Depending on the state, individuals choosing to consume medical cannabis must adhere to specific rules and standards. Each state designates a process by which individuals can use, distribute, grow, and use cannabis. In Washington state, however, individuals may apply for a medical marijuana card for a group of conditions as approved by a licensed medical professional.
Why Should I Get an MMJ Card?
In Washington state, recreational marijuana is currently legal for adults aged 21 and over via Initiative 502. According to legislation as of November 2012, adults aged 21 and over may purchase marijuana recreationally from state-licensed retail outlets. Any adult purchasing at such an establishment is only allowed up to one ounce per sale.
However, the law does allow for the purchase of edibles up to 16 ounces as well as the purchase of up to 72 ounces of any liquid containing marijuana substances. Marijuana concentrates are also legal for adults 21 and over to purchase; however, there can be only 7 grams per buyer.
Those with an MMJ card are allowed higher amounts of cannabis per purchase. For instance, MMJ cardholders purchasing at a state-licensed store can buy up to 48 ounces of a marijuana-infused product in solid form. They can also purchase up to three ounces of marijuana, 216 ounces of marijuana-infused liquid, and 21 grams of marijuana concentrates.
With an MMJ card, a patient can gain greater access to cannabis products and purchase more per visit. Medical patients can also grow cannabis for use on their residential properties.
Marijuana Growth in Washington
Only medical doctors and others licensed by the state of Washington can grow marijuana. There is an exception, however. Co-operative gardens are acceptable. However, all growers must be aged 21 or older. They must also not be near a school, park, playground, or state-licensed marijuana retailer.
All on-site growth requires a permit. There may be restrictions against co-operative and joint gardens depending on the county. Growers must check local laws and legislation.
However, MMJ cardholders may grow up to six plants for medical use. If MMJ cardholders live in a shared residence, the growth of any marijuana plants can be no more than fifteen altogether.
In certain circumstances, a healthcare professional can authorize the growing of up to 15 plants on residential properties for a single patient. The medical professional must explain why the patient’s needs exceed current legal limits.
If approved, the patient may have up to 16 ounces of usable cannabis in their home at any given time. The number of plants recommended for medical use must also appear in the medical authorization database.
However, despite cannabis’ status in many counties in Washington, it is still not sanctioned federally. This means that any number of individuals could be subject to arrest or fines at any given time, even with an MMJ card.
How Do I Get A Washington State MMJ Card?
If you are a resident in Washington state and have authorization from a licensed medical professional, you may be eligible for an MMJ card. However, you must meet some specific criteria and requirements. First, a qualifying patient must have one of the conditions below to get approval:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Seizure or spasticity disorders
- Pain that standard treatments do not relieve
- Crohn’s disease (the disorder must have debilitating symptoms)
- Anorexia or other wasting diseases
- Symptoms following chronic renal failure with hemodialysis
- Severe brain injury
Unfortunately, many mental illness disorders aren’t covered as qualifying conditions. Disorders and conditions such as depression and anxiety are exempt even with a doctor’s professional diagnosis. Be aware that you don’t have to go to a medical doctor to seek a professional diagnosis.
If patients need an immediate appointment with a medical doctor, there can often be a wait. However, Washington state law allows for a variety of medical personnel to meet the requirements of a licensed medical professional. These specialties include:
- Practicing MD
- Physician assistant
- Advanced registered nurse practitioner
- Naturopathic physician
- Osteopathic physician
- Osteopathic physician assistant
Authorization for an MMJ Card
Once a patient has qualified under a licensed medical professional, they must complete an authorization form. The authorization form will need to be signed and filled out by a medical professional. Beginning in January of 2020, there will be a newer version of the authorization form that must be signed.
The authorization form should not be mailed, faxed, or emailed to Washington’s Department of Health. Patients seeking an MMJ card should set an appointment with a medically licensed retail store. After setting the date, the patient must bring in proof of identification and the authorization form.
Once a patient proves identity and produces a valid authorization form, approved retailers add the patient to a database. The database will include information from the authorization form and will be used to generate the medical marijuana card.
Patients should note that being placed onto the database will not protect patients from federal prosecution. It also will not guarantee job security if an employer is classified as a drug-free organization or workplace.
Landlords are also not obligated to allow cannabis use on their property or inside the residence. It is not illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent to an MMJ patient due to substance use. Placement into the database is also not for a lifetime. Database placements expire between six months for a minor with a guardian to one year for medical patients aged 21 and older.
Patients under the age of 18 must have a designated provider for medical marijuana use. They also must have a parent or guardian’s permission and participation in their treatment. The treatment must address a terminal or debilitating disorder or condition. Both the parent or guardian and the minor child are entered into the database at a participating medically licensed store.
The provider is responsible for the purchase of all marijuana products and the growth of any marijuana plants. The provider must also work actively with the attending physician on the course of treatment. The attending physician must also re-examine the minor child every six months to continue qualifying for the MMJ program.
What Is the Cost to Be Registered?
The initiative states what costs there are for marijuana retailers, consultants, and producers, however, for medical marijuana patients, the costs are structured much differently. A fee is assessed on behalf of the marijuana retailer and not the patient or provider. However, the charge is paid for by the patient/provider and collected on behalf of this establishment.
There is a nominal one-dollar fee. Once the retailer accepts payment from the patient, they are entered into the database. The patient is then issued a card. There is a schedule for each retailer to give the fees collected from patients to the state.
No Longer Want an MMJ Card? Here’s What You Do:
It may be possible that a qualifying patient no longer wants to be a part of the database. Situations arise where the health and condition of the patient improves, or it becomes a matter of preference. In either case, the patient may revoke his/her status as a medical marijuana patient.
A patient or person represented by a provider may complete a Revocation Request Form. Unlike the authorization form, this request should be mailed to the address listed at the top of the form. All designated providers must be advised of their revoked status in the database.
Final Thoughts on MMJ Cards in Washington State
While recreational marijuana may be available for use in Washington, there are many benefits to an MMJ card. This includes higher amounts of cannabis products as well as the ability to grow more plants at a residence. Qualified medical professionals can also suggest higher amounts of plants for medicinal growth in a home.
With a fee of only $1.00, medical marijuana patients and minor children can access a card. However, they must qualify using a list of conditions. Although many significant disorders and diseases are qualifying, many mental conditions and disorders are not.
Patients and providers should always keep in mind that cannabis is a scheduled substance. There is always a chance that a user may incur fines, fees, or other punishments per federal law.