Legalization of marijuana in Washington state comes with regulations

Washington state ballot initiative 502, as approved in November 2012, decriminalized certain types of marijuana possession and provided regulatory framework for production, distribution and possession. However, the possessor must still be cognizant of both the new laws and other areas of potential issue. A few of those issues are highlighted below.

Possession versus distribution can still be a matter of numbers

Prior to the passage of initiative 502, the difference between lower and higher criminal charges of possession and possession with the intent to distribute could depend on a number of factors, one of which is the amount of the marijuana in possession. While initiative 502 decriminalized some forms of personal possession, it placed regulations on distribution; which means that amounts deemed higher than those for personal possession are regulated by the new licensing laws for distributors and still may run the risk of criminal charges as well.

Use and lifestyle factors with regard to criminal law concerns

While the new laws have provided a system of regulations for certain types of production, distribution and possession of marijuana, the possessor must still be aware of potential legal risks associated with usage. Just as with alcohol or even something like an exotic pet, a person may run afoul of the law even if the item is legally obtained.

One key criminal issue to keep in mind is that it is possible to receive a conviction of driving under the influence for users of marijuana much like can occur from the more publicized use of alcohol. It is especially important in Washington to understand marijuana law while in a motor vehicle because DUI eradication is a specific factor in the Washington State Patrol's Target Zero campaign. As with alcohol-related DUI charges, the amount of the substance in the driver's system and/or other indicators such as behavior can change over time. New legal issues require criminal defense practices to adapt as well.

Workplace testing and criminal law issues

Initiative 502 has also created a new hot button issue of marijuana testing in the workplace. Although a largely civil matter, the issue does have some criminal implications. One side of the debate points to the fact that some employers might be under federal regulation, and this serves to remind users that marijuana is still illegal in most instances under federal law. The workplace as well as other potential possession practices in life may be influenced by federal criminal law. Also, again, with the analogy to alcohol, there is a difference at law of possessing something or trace amounts within blood and being perceived as too intoxicated by the substance to perform some type of duty such as driving or other work functions.

After any kind of marijuana arrest or related legal issue-whatever the severity-it can be important to enlist the help of an experienced attorney who understands the challenges of Washington marijuana laws. A skilled attorney has the knowledge to navigate the past-to-present changes in Washington marijuana laws and the unique ways in which they are enforced and prosecuted by localities and the state.