Question: I go to college in Eugene, Oregon, and I’m going to Seattle soon to cheer on the Ducks in a basketball game against the Huskies. While there, I plan to visit a recreational weed shop and load upon whatever I’m allowed to buy. Is it legal for me to buy in Washington even though I am an Oregon resident?
Answer: If you’re at least 21 years of age, you can buy the maximum amount allowed. But you’d better plan on a very stoned visit to the Emerald City because you can’t take it with you.
Voters in Colorado and Washington passed laws in 2012 legalizing recreational production, possession, use, and sale of marijuana in those states. In both states, individuals age 21 or older may legally buy and possess pot for personal, non-medical use. (Both states already allowed adults with certain medical conditions to possess marijuana purchased at medical dispensaries.)
Under Washington’s recreational use law, initiative 502, a person at least 21 years old may possess up to one ounce of marijuana, up to 16 ounces of a marijuana-infused solid products such as edibles, or up 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids, such as teas or sodas.
Assuming you are 21, you can legally stock up on Pineapple Express, ghee butterscotch brownies, and Paradise Punch in Seattle. But, you can’t legally possess it in Oregon, unless you buy at a medical dispensary in Oregon and have a medical marijuana card issued in Oregon. And, you risk arrest taking it across state lines, regardless of how you purchased it.
Oregon law, as you know, makes possession of marijuana for personal, recreational use a crime. Of course, Oregon does have a medical marijuana law that allows an adult with medical conditions specified in the law to purchase marijuana at licensed dispensaries to treat those conditions upon the written recommendation of a physician. So, if you have a medical marijuana card issued under the Oregon law, you may legally possess marijuana for medical use in Oregon.
Even if you legally purchase pot in Seattle and have a medical marijuana card valid in Oregon, you cannot legally transport marijuana into Oregon. If you decide to risk it and your car is searched during a traffic stop in Oregon, you may face a serious criminal charge (such as distribution of a narcotic). And, marijuana possession is also illegal under federal law, which may be applied if you are stopped on an interstate highway crossing state lines.
Driving under the influence of marijuana is still illegal under Washington law (and, of course, under Oregon law). Washington based the marijuana DUI provision of initiative 502 on the state’s general law for driving under the influence. That provision designates the limit on the amount of active tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”), the intoxicating compound in marijuana, that may be legally present in a driver’s system. A police officer stopping a driver on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana must establish probable cause to conduct a breath or blood test for the presence of active THC in the driver’s system, a justification analogous to that required for breath or blood alcohol tests. A charge of marijuana DUI may be based only the presence of active THC in the driver’s system, as distinguished from inactive marijuana metabolites that may be present in the driver’s system. As with an alcohol DUI, conviction of a marijuana DUI carries serious penalties.
Bottom line: Don’t drive high.
The Washington recreational pot law does not allow public consumption, which the law defines as consumption in view of the general public. So, no lighting up at the game!
If you restrict your purchase and use of pot to your stay in Seattle and otherwise abide by Washington law, you should not risk arrest. But, purchase wisely because you don’t want to risk carrying a stash into Oregon. If you have questions about the Oregon or Washington laws, talk to a criminal defense lawyer. Oh, and go Huskies (I’m a UW grad)!