This post is intended to benefit entrepreneurs considering getting involved in the Washington State cannabis industry, and managers who need fast access to information regarding cannabis regulations in Washington. Here we’ve gathered some of the overarching information regarding operating a marijuana company in Washington into one document. We’ll briefly discuss Washington marijuana regulations and provide a list of links to important information and resources as well as Washington state cannabis forms and license applications.
Washington officially became the first U.S. state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana upon the passage of Initiative 502 in early December 2012. By that time medical marijuana had already been legal in the state for nearly a decade and a half.
In July 2016, Washington’s medical marijuana and recreational marijuana regulations were incorporated into one regulatory framework.
The sale of marijuana to the public, or the growing or processing of marijuana by any entity other than a state-licensed retailer constitutes a criminal violation.
Washington's cannabis industry regulatory agency is the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board. The WSLCB offers six marijuana-related licenses.
Washington Cannabis Licensing
To apply for a cannabis business license in Washington state you must be 21 or older. You must also have been a Washington resident for the prior six months. Moreover, all licensees must maintain residency in order to retain a license.
Available Washinton cannabis business licenses include:
- Producer license descriptions and fees - Not accepting new applications
- Processor license descriptions and fees - Not accepting new applications
- Retailer license description and fees - Not accepting new applications
- Transportation License
- Marijuana Research License
- Cooperatives Registration Application
To review application options visit the Business Licensing Service's marijuana web page.
Although a company can own both grower and processor licenses, retailers are not permitted to obtain either grower or processor licenses. And growers and processors are not allowed to sell marijuana products directly to consumers.
Cannabis companies are permitted to own up to three of any one type of license. Although retailers may hold up to three retailer licenses, they are not allowed to hold more than 33% of the retail licenses allotted for the city or county in which they operate.
Washington state law allows for a total of two million square feet of production. However, the WSLCB has the authority to limit the number of licenses awarded. In 2013, the WSLCB offered a 30-day window to apply for licenses.
Currently, all available licenses have been awarded.
The only way to acquire a license at this time is to purchase an existing licensed business. Businesses are not allowed to sell licenses to other businesses.
The following information will also be required by the WSLCB upon applying for or transferring a license:
- Criminal background checks (financiers, owners, and spouses)
- Government-issued identification (financiers, owners, and spouses)
- Financial statements
- Bank statements and tax returns
Washington Cannabis Grower’s License Tiers
Washing offers three tiers of grower’s licenses based on the square footage of the operation.
The three tiers of producer licenses include:
- Tier 1 - Under 2,000 square feet
- Tier 2 - 2,000 to 10,000 square feet
- Tier 3 - 10,000 to 30,000 square feet
Operations that fail to utilize half or more of their allotted space may be moved to a lower tier by the WSLCB.
Cannabis Licensing Information Requirements
In order to procure or maintain a marijuana producer license, plans must be submitted for each of the following:
- Employee qualifications and training
- Destruction of waste products
- Transportation of product to retailer, packager, and/or processor
- Testing procedures and protocol
- A description of the grow facility
- Operation plan (what will be grown, types of equipment, soils, and fertilizers, etc.)
Washington Cannabis License Fees
The annual license and renewal fee is currently $1381, although it has been subject to change over the years.
If WSLCB offers more licenses in the future there will likely be a non-refundable application fee of $250.
If a business purchases an existing company a Change in Governing People, Percentage Owned and/or Stock/Unit Ownership form must be filed. There is an accompanying $75 fee.
Washington Cannabis Regulations
The primary statutes for recreational marijuana are codified in chapter 69.50 RCW, beginning with RCW 69.50.325; the medical marijuana statutes are located in chapter 69.51A RCW.
The Liquor and Cannabis Board regulations for marijuana are found in chapter 314-55 WAC.
Cannabis grows must take place within a fully enclosed, secure indoor facility or greenhouse with rigid walls, a roof, and doors.
Outdoor produces may grow cannabis in “non-rigid greenhouses, other structures, or an expanse of open or clear ground fully enclosed by a physical barrier.”
Outdoor cannabis grows must be enclosed by a “sight obscure” wall or fence at least eight feet high.
Washington Cannabis Security Requirements
Washington state law sets minimum security requirements for cannabis operations.
Required security measures include:
- Traceability records
- Samples for testing
- Samples for buyers
- Sale records
- Excise tax records
Washington Cannabis Transportation Rules
All persons who transport cannabis are required to obtain a license from the WSLCB. The Marijuana Transportation License fee is $250.
Washington State Cannabis Regulatory Compliance
All licensed marijuana businesses operating in Washington State must comply with a wide range of local, state, and federal regulations and codes.
The Interagency Resource for Achieving Cooperation and a partnership of Washington Municipalities and industry representatives have published Regulatory Guidance for Cannabis Operations.
With the same goal, MRSC has prepared the following list of applicable regulations and codes clarifying which government agency is responsible for enforcing them.
- Building, plumbing, electrical and fire codes are enforced by the local government jurisdiction where the business is located.
- Smells and fumes are generally a nuisance issue handled by local government.
State and Local Government
- Wastewater discharge is managed through the agency operating the local treatment plant. Procedures used for disposal of marijuana solid waste that is not "dangerous waste" must be handled properly (WAC 314-55-097(4)).
- Disposal of solvents, pesticides, fertilizers and materials classified as "dangerous waste" will need to be done in accordance with state regulations (WAC 314-55-097).
- State law places strict limits on signage for marijuana businesses (WAC 314-55-155). Local governments may adopt the WAC signage requirement as a local regulation and may also enforce stricter standards.
- There are also state regulations for signs that must be placed within marijuana businesses (WAC 314-55-086).
- State law places special requirements for marijuana producers who grow plants outside (WAC 314-55-075). Enforcement of the WAC fencing requirement is the responsibility of the Liquor and Cannabis Board, though a local government could adopt the WAC standard and also enforce that regulation.
- Security requirements for licensed marijuana businesses are set out in state regulations (WAC 314-55-083). The State Liquor and Cannabis Board staff will inspect and make sure that all requirements are met.
- Safety issues raised by the use of volatile compounds by processors will be dealt with by the Occupational Safety and Health Board Administration (OSHA).
Washington State Marijuana Taxes
In the state of Washinton, retail sales are taxed at a high rate of 37%. The majority of this revenue is earmarked for public health programs. The remaining funds go towards the Liquor and Cannabis Board, local governments, and the state general fund.
The 37% tax is in addition to any other regular state or local taxes that would apply to any Washington business. Some marijuana products, such as low THC products, are exempt from the 37% tax.
Medical Marijuana Exemption
As of July 2016 retail sales tax does not applied to:
- Retail sales of medical marijuana to “qualifying patients or designated providers who have been issued recognition cards.”
- Retail sales tax of high CBD/low THC medical cannabis to any person.
Washington Medical Marijuana Cooperatives
The statutes on “collective gardens” were repealed effective July 1, 2016 and replaced by more restrictive “cooperatives” statutes for the growing of marijuana for medical use. See RCW 69.51A.250.
Furthermore, local governments are authorized to prohibit medical marijuana cooperatives. See RCW 69.51A.250(3)(c).
Restrictions on medical marijuana cooperatives include:
- Cooperatives must be located in the domicile of one of the participants. See RCW 69.51A.250(7).
- Cooperatives may have up to a maximum of four qualifying patients or providers as members. See RCW 69.51A.250(1).
- Participants may grow up to a maximum of 60 plants and possess up to 72 ounces of usable marijuana. See RCW 69.51A.250(6)(a).
- None of the marijuana from a cooperative can be sold to others. See RCW 69.51A.250(6)(e).
Washington Local Zoning Ordinances
City and county zoning measures adopted since initiative 502 was approved are diverse. Some jurisdictions have enacted total prohibition, while others have allowed cannabis businesses to operate in appropriate zoning districts.
- Retail marijuana businesses: retail zones
- Outdoor marijuana production: agricultural zones
- Indoor marijuana production and processing: industrial zones
Cannabis businesses are forbidden from operating within 1000 feet of any the following:
- elementary or secondary school
- Recreation center or facility
- Child care center
- Public park
- Public transit center
- Game arcade that allows minors to enter
Furthermore, local authorities will also be notified of all cannabis license applications and are given the opportunity to file objections.
Cities, towns, and counties in Washington State can choose to opt out of the state’s cannabis program and or to designate appropriate zones for marijuana businesses, however, it is the WSLCB that has final authority over whether to grant or deny the license to operate in Washington State.
Cities, towns, and counties can file objections to the granting of a state license at a particular location and the Liquor and Cannabis Board must “give substantial weight to objections,” but it is still up to the LCB to make the state license decision. See RCW 69.50.331(10).
Counties and municipalities may also prohibit producers or processors from operating in areas zoned for residential or rural use. In order to avoid problems, be sure to run your plan by local authorities before applying for a state license.
Additional Resources and Forms
The Washington State Marijuana Dashboard provides an overview of the marijuana market in Washington, including licensing, production, sales, and compliance figures.
Additional Forms and Applications
- Application for Additional Funding
- Application for Added Medical Marijuana Endorsement
- Cooperatives Change Authorization Application
- Expanding plant canopy to maximum allotted
- Request to Alter Marijuana Site and/or Operating Plan
- Splitting a Producer and Processor License
- Change in Governing People, Percentage Owned and/or Stock/Unit Ownership
- Change of Location
Additional Information and Data Reports
- Approved Infused Products List
- Approved Testing Labs
- List of Washington County Minimum Lot Sizes and Setback Requirements for Marijuana Production
- Employment and Wage Earnings in Licensed Marijuana Businesses
- Washington State Senate Commerce and Labor Committee: A Legislator’s Guide to Washington’s Marijuana Laws
- Washington State Office of Financial Management (OFM): Monitoring Impacts of Recreational Marijuana Legalization
- Marijuana Enforcement Visits (w/date and type)
- Marijuana Violations
- Enforcement Bulletins
- Marijuana License Applicants
- Marijuana; Local Government Distributions
- Marijuana; Medically Endorsed Stores
- Marijuana Retail Store Status by Location
- Marijuana Sales Activity
- Fiscal Year 2015 Sales and Excise Tax by County
- Fiscal Year 2016 Sales and Excise Tax by County
- Fiscal Year 2017 Sales and Excise Tax by County
- Fiscal Year 2018 Sales and Excise Tax by County (retail sales only)
- Marijuana Sales Activity by License Number
- Marijuana Sales Activity by License Number – Traceability Contingency Reporting
- Monthly Marijuana Report
You can sign up for Washington’s ListServ to receive important updates about application windows and other industry-specific regulatory information.
WSLCB Contact Information
Address: Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board
PO Box 43098
3000 Pacific Ave SE
Olympia WA 98504-3098
Phone: (360) 664-1600