FAQs on I-502

Frequently Asked Questions about Implementing Initiative 502

Subtopics (links)


Q:  When can I buy marijuana legally?

A:  The initiative allows the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) until December 1, 2013 to write the rules, or implementation details, of the new system. Because the WSLCB is building the system from seed to sale, it will likely take the full year to complete the rules. We estimate that the initial licenses for producers (marijuana growers) may be available mid-year 2013 and the marijuana retailers in late-2013.

Q:  What is a license? How do I get it? When can I get it

A:  I-502 creates three separate tiers: marijuana producer, marijuana processor, and marijuana retailer. Currently the WSLCB is working to define what the qualifications and requirements for each license will be. The best way to keep up to date on the process is to register for email notifications on the WSLCB website www.liq.wa.gov.

Q:  How much does a license cost?

A:  I-502 establishes a license application fee at $250 and a $1,000 renewal fee for each of the three licenses; marijuana producer, marijuana processor and marijuana retailer.

Q:  Can I hold all three license types?

A:  Having all three licenses is not permitted under I-502. A licensee may hold both a producer and a processor license simultaneously. The initiative does not allow a producer to also be a retailer or a processor to also be a retailer.

Q:  How many licenses will be issued?

A:  I-502 directs the LCB work with OFM to determine the maximum number of outlets based population and access to product. Those numbers could decrease or increase depending on a variety of factors. This type of system does not exist anywhere so it is not possible to today predict the number of licenses.

Q:  With a limited amount of licenses how will you determine who will receive them?

A:  The WSLCB presently has several available options to distribute license opportunities, such as a lottery or other format, but it is still too early to say how they will be allocated. Visit our website for the latest announcements on licensing.

Q:  Can a current farm just convert its crop to marijuana?

A:  Rules and regulations defining how a producer licensee must legally operate have yet to be decided. Marijuana remains illegal for those under age 21 and must be purchased in a state-licensed retail store. So, converting a crop to marijuana would require a producer license and undoubtedly, some way to safeguard the crop from theft.

Q:  Can I grow my own marijuana now? Can I sell my homegrown marijuana?

A:  Home grown marijuana for recreational use, as well as sale, is illegal. Recreational use marijuana must be purchased from a state-licensed retailer.


Retail Stores

Q:  Are there restrictions on where I can set up a store?

A:  You cannot set up a store within 1000 feet of any elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library, or game arcade that allows minors to enter. Local authorities will also be notified and have an opportunity to object.

Q:  Will the retail outlets be run by the state?

A:  Stores will be licensed and regulated by the WSLCB but will be private-sector businesses.

Q:  Can I incorporate marijuana sales into my existing business?

A:  No. The initiative is clear that retail outlets may only sell marijuana, marijuana infused products and marijuana paraphernalia.

Q:  Can customers smoke in a retail store?

A:  No. On-premise consumption is not allowed under Initiative 502.

Q: Are there any restrictions on advertising?

A:  Retailers are limited to one 1,600 square inch sign bearing their business/trade name. They cannot put products on display to the general public such as through window fronts. No licensee can advertise marijuana/infused product in any form or through any medium whatsoever within 1,000 ft. of school grounds, playgrounds, child care, public parks, libraries, or game arcades that allows minors to enter. Also, you can’t advertise on public transit vehicles/shelters or on any publically owned or operated property.

Q:  Will non-Washington residents be able to purchase marijuana?

A:  This topic is not addressed in I-502 and is something to be decided through the WSLCB rule-making process. I-502 is clear that marijuana products are to be consumed in Washington.


Public Safety/Criminal

Note: The WSLCB is a licensing and regulatory agency and does not handle criminal prosecutions

Q:  What will the WSLCB do to ensure public safety, especially preventing access by minors?

A:  Public safety is central to the WSLCB mission. As expected by the voters, the rules we create will include minimums for security, preventing minors’ access to marijuana and other provisions. Educating retailers and preventing minors access to alcohol is an important part of our enforcement work today. Something similar for marijuana sales is likely.

Q:  What is the DUI provision?

A:  The initiative sets a per se DUI limit of "delta-9" THC levels at greater than or equal to 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood (5 ng/mL). State and local law enforcement agencies are tasked with enforcing the DUI limit.

Q:  Since it’s legal to possess marijuana Dec. 6 but there will not be licensed retailers from which to purchase it until 2013 can I still be arrested for possession?

A:  I-502 decriminalizes marijuana possession and use in Washington State for those age 21 and older and who possess any combination of: one ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana in solid form or 72 ounces in liquid form. The Seattle Police Department wrote an FAQ document that addresses how its officers will be handling marijuana possession going forward. Each jurisdiction may be handling it differently so it’s important to check with local law enforcement on how to proceed.

Q:  Can I still be drug tested now that marijuana is legal

A:  I-502 does not address the topic of drug testing but it is our understanding that employers may still conduct drug testing at their discretion. Since marijuana is illegal under federal law institutions that receive federal funds will still be subject to mandated testing. Organizations such as the NFL and NBA have issued statements that marijuana consumption is a violation of their conduct policy and they intend to continue testing for it.

Q:  The initiative says I cannot consume marijuana in public. What is the definition of “in public?”

A:  Initiative 502 states that it is unlawful to open/consume a package of marijuana or marijuana infused product in view of the general public.

Q:  Can marijuana purchased legally in Washington be transported to other states?

A:  No. Marijuana and marijuana products are to be consumed in Washington State.


Federal Government

Q:  What is the federal government going to do?

A:  How the federal government will respond to Initiative 502 and Colorado’s Amendment 64 is presently unknown. Governor Gregoire met with Deputy Attorney General James Cole on Nov. 13 to seek clarification but the Department of Justice is still reviewing both Washington and Colorado’s legalization laws and has not made a decision regarding their course of action. The Governor’s office is maintaining an open dialogue with the federal government and the WSLCB is moving forward to carry out the expectations of the agency under the new law.

Q:  Since marijuana is legal in Washington can the federal government still prosecute me?

A:  Yes. I-502 does not preempt federal law. Presently Washington State residents involved in marijuana production /retailing could still be subject to prosecution if the federal government chooses to do so.

Q:  Can the federal government confiscate my assets?

A:  Yes. Confiscation of assets is one of the enforcement tactics available to federal authorities.

Q:  What about industrial hemp? Does this create a new market for hemp products?

A:  No. I-502 is focused on legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. I-502 modifies the definition of “marijuana” to include only cannabis greater than 0.3 percent THC concentration. Cannabis under this limit – industrial hemp – is not treated as recreational “marijuana.”


WSLCB Hiring

Q:  Will you be hiring after the passage of Initiative 502?

A:  Yes. The task of regulating an entirely new system is a big one and the agency will have to expand to meet those challenges. We are estimating about 35 hires, mostly in licensing and enforcement.

Q:  How can I apply for a job with WSLCB?

A:  All job openings will be posted in the careers section of our website. The actual application process is done through Careers.wa.gov. Visit their website and fill out your profile in advance so you are ready when opportunities become available.

Q:  Does the WSLCB drug test new employees?

A:  The WSLB does not drug test administrative staff at the time of hiring. However, we do test potential enforcement staff for drugs, including marijuana. The WSLCB is a drug-free workplace. All employees are expected to not be impaired at work. Should a reasonable suspicion arise that an employee is impaired, that person may be tested.

Q:  I’m an expert in the field of marijuana how can I be involved in the process?

A:  Our rule-making system is a public process so we will be engaging citizens along the way. Like hiring, the best way to keep up to date on the process is to register for email notifications. We will be sending out timelines and requests for public comment using email.

The WSLCB is also likely to issue a request for proposal (RFP) and/or request for qualifications (RFQ) to help provide expertise in certain areas. For example, a person or organization to consult with on the marijuana plant or product itself, providing reliable consumption data, etc.



Q:  What is retail marijuana going to cost?

A:  OFM’s fiscal impact statement places a price estimate of a $3 per gram producer price, a $6 per gram processor price and a pre-tax $12 per gram average retail purchase price.

Q:  How much tax revenue will I-502 generate?

A:  Estimates range anywhere between $0 and $2 billion dollars during the first five years. Without knowing what the market will look like or what the federal reaction will be, it is not presently possible to accurately gauge the total amount of revenue produced.

Q:  How is it going to be taxed?

A:  The initiative applies a 25% excise tax on each level of the system: producer to a processor, processor to a retailer, and retailer to the customer. In addition, B&O taxes on the production and local retail sales taxes apply.

Q:  I-502 tax rates are too high, can you lower them?

A:  The tax structure for I-502 is prescriptive in the initiative and has become law with its passing. WSLCB officials do not have the authority to change the taxes that were voted for by the public. A change to the tax structure would have to come from the legislature. During the first two years a change to the initiative would require a two thirds majority.


Medical Marijuana

Note: I-502 does not address medical marijuana. The state does not currently license or regulate medical marijuana outlets. I-502 does not change how or where they operate.

Q:  Can medical marijuana patients continue to cooperatively grow?

A:  I-502 is silent on medical marijuana.

Q:  Is it true that the WSLCB is just going to license current medical marijuana outlets to retail marijuana?

A:  No. Who will be licensed to retail marijuana is not yet known because the licensing rules and regulations have yet to be established. At this time any information to the contrary should be treated as conjecture and rumor. As information regarding retail licenses becomes available it will be posted to our website and via our email notification system.

Q:  Where can I learn more about medical marijuana?

A:  The Washington State Department of Health has information about medical marijuana on its website here.

Q:  Will the Washington State Liquor Control Board be changing its name?

A:  Presently there are no plans to change the agency’s name. Any change would have to come from the state Legislature and that is a low priority at the moment.