This article explains how a person in Washington state can still be charged with a crime despite marijuana being legal.

In the 2012 election, Washington made history by becoming one of two states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana under certain circumstances. Washington businesses began applying for licenses to sell pot on Dec. 1, 2013, and marijuana retail stores are scheduled to begin opening their doors to the public later in 2014.

Yet, while things are changing concerning marijuana, the new Washington state law does not mean that you cannot wind up facing a drug charge for pot possession. You could benefit from knowing a little more about Washington’s marijuana possession laws under the new regulatory framework.

Only Possession Of Less Than An Ounce And Private Use Is Currently Legal Under State Law

Currently, for Washington residents who are 21 years of age or older, there is no criminal or civil penalty under state law for possession or private consumption of up to one ounce of marijuana. Up to 16 ounces of a marijuana-infused solid product and 72 ounces of a liquid marijuana-infused product may also be possessed without penalty.

While possession of small amounts of marijuana is no longer a state-level crime, use of pot in public can lead to a $100 civil penalty. In addition, until Washington’s legalization law is fully implemented and licensed retail marijuana stores are opened, there is no legal way to obtain, grow or sell marijuana.

Possession of marijuana for personal use in an amount that exceeds the limits set by state law can be a serious drug charge. Possession of more than one ounce of pot but less than 40 grams is a misdemeanor carrying a minimum mandatory sentence of 24 hours in jail and a $250 fine for a first offense, with a maximum jail term and maximum fine of 90 days and $1,000, respectively.

If you possess more than 40 grams of marijuana, possession of that much pot may be interpreted in and of itself as having an intent to distribute; marijuana possession with an intent to distribute in any amount is a felony charge carrying up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Cultivation of marijuana and actually making a sale or distribution of marijuana in any amount are also felonies punishable by five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Of course, even though possession of small amounts of marijuana has been legalized under Washington law, all marijuana use remains illegal under federal law. The Justice Department has promised that their efforts will focus on high volume traffickers and initiatives to keep pot out of the hands of children, but possession of even less than an ounce of marijuana in Washington could theoretically result in federal charges.

A Washington Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You Fight Drug Charges

Times are changing, and Washington is establishing itself as a pioneer in the marijuana legalization debate. But even under the new law, there are many ways you can end up facing serious charges for marijuana possession. If you need to defend against drug charges, get in touch with a Washington criminal defense attorney today; an experienced attorney can highlight weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and get evidence collected in violation of your rights thrown out.

Keywords: possession of marijuana, Washington laws, arrested

Green Ritchie & Bogar, PLLC