Seattle dispensaries are hailed as some of the best pot shops in the whole of the US.
But while cannabis may well be legal in Washington State, it is still a federally controlled substance. We are certainly living in an era of liberalized views and laws when it comes to smoking nature’s finest, but it isn’t just a free for all.
There are still many rules and regulations that surround the use of cannabis – and rightly so.
If used correctly, cannabis can be an amazing substance. Its medicinal benefits bring relief to tens of thousands of sufferers around the country every day. And recreationally, people across Seattle use weed to help them relax and unwind, as a tool to socialize and connect with friends and family, and a way to enhance their enjoyment of everything from mountain hiking to video gaming.
But it is when it is left unregulated that it generates a bad public image. Street dealers have no problems selling to minors, and black-market cannabis can fuel gangs to fight over territory and grow powerful from the profits.
It is up to us as cannabis users to act responsibly and to respect the laws and regulations that are in place, to ensure cannabis maintains its presence as a safe and harmless plant that is generating jobs and tax profits for our state.
Seattle Dispensaries: Rules of Etiquette
If you grew up in the era before legalization and are anything like me, you probably still haven’t got over the novelty of being able to walk into a fully legal retail store and take your pick of some of the finest marijuana strains the world has to offer.
It never fails to put a smile on my face when I walk into one of our city’s fine dispensaries and peruse the stock of organically grown, sun-fed super strains from every continent on the planet.
But to maximize the perks of your trips to your local Seattle dispensary it’s important to know the finer details of how they work.
21 and over
Sorry kids, but cannabis is for adults only. Many studies have found that cannabinoids affect the brains of younger people differently from that of adults. While our brains are still developing, cannabis can have a stronger negative effect, so, understandably, this law stands.
Minors aren’t even allowed to enter the retail premises as customers or a worker. And if you’re lucky enough to look close to or under 21 years of age, you’re going to want to bring a valid photo ID to ensure you’re not denied entry. A lot of downtown dispensaries will have security on the door, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Blazing in the store?
Contrary to the notion put forward by many anti-cannabis campaigners before the legalization of marijuana, Seattle dispensaries have not turned out to be the hubs of crime and drug use they expected.
They imagined darkened, smoke-filled rooms, full of hardened criminals and street dealers. Far from it. Dispensaries are as safe and welcoming as any main street retail store. They’re clean, well lit, and usually with a friendly, open atmosphere.
The point is that they’re only there to sell you the stash, not provide you a space to consume it. And if you’re thinking of blazing up on the sidewalk outside of a dispensary, you’re putting yourself at risk of being blacklisted from the establishment.
Business owners do not want their stores gaining a reputation as congregation grounds for illegal behavior, so they will bust you out if they see you breaking the law.
You know the saying ‘the left-hand doesn’t know what the right is doing?’
Well, when it comes to cannabis legislation (and a lot more besides) this perfectly sums up the US government. Cannabis is still illegal on a federal level, despite it being legal to purchase medically and recreationally in the vast majority of states.
As a result, many national banks will not accept credit from cannabis businesses, whether that’s growers, distributors, or retailers. This situation is putting many dispensaries in a position where they cannot process any digital transactions are and forced to operate with cash as much as possible.
So if you’re asked to pay in cash, they’re not trying to avoid paying tax – in fact, cash is the only way many cannabis businesses are able to keep the taxman paid.
Know the law
So now you know what to expect when you hit the dispensary, the next thing you need to know is how to stay on the right side of the law once you’ve got your bag. As I mentioned before, it’s not a total free-for-all.
There are laws and regulations on a state and federal level that set out how much you can carry and where you can enjoy cannabis. While most of these rules are common sense, it’s best to know where the line of the law lays so you can enjoy cannabis safely without looking over your shoulder in between every puff.
How much cannabis can I buy?
One of the main reasons for legalizing the sale of cannabis is to take the market away from the streets and out of the hands of gangs and criminals.
And to stop dispensaries from becoming distribution centers for street dealers, there is a limit of how much weed and weed products you can buy or possess at any one time.
Maximum possession amounts:
- Cannabis flower: 1 ounce
- Cannabis-infused edibles: 16 ounces
- Liquid edibles: 72 ounces
- Cannabis concentrates: 7 grams
No Seattle Dispensary will sell you any more than the amounts listed above.
Okay, there’s no way of tracking this and you could technically hit up every single dispensary in the city and fill your entire trunk up with bud. But these weights are the maximum possession amounts. If you’re caught with more than these amounts on your person or your premises without a distribution license you’re facing up to five years in prison on a felony charge, and a fine of up $10,000.
The law is a little more lenient when it comes to medicinal cannabis users. If you’re a registered cardholder you can carry up to the following amounts;
Maximum possession amounts for medical users
- Cannabis flower: 3 ounces
- Cannabis-infused edibles: 48 ounces
- Liquid edibles: 216 ounces
- Cannabis concentrates: 21 grams
Bear in mind though that a medical marijuana card isn’t a free pass. You’ll still be committing a felony if you carry more than the prescribed amounts.
Where can I consume?
We already know that blazing up inside or outside a dispensary isn’t the best way to make friends in the local community. So where can you smoke?
Well, the truth is you cannot consume cannabis or cannabis products anywhere in Washington State apart from in the privacy of your own home. And even in your own home, you have to ensure the smell isn’t drifting in public spaces.
The street, car parks, and public parks are all off-limits. If you’re caught consuming cannabis in public you can find yourself on the wrong end of a $100 civil penalty fine. This might not seem much, but if caught repeatedly the consequences can be more severe.
Public parks are an even riskier business. While the idea of laying back in the sun, relaxing on the grass smoking grass may seem like the ideal way to spend an afternoon, you could find yourself hauled up on federal charges. Many parks are federally owned and managed and fall under the jurisdictions of federal law. And those feds aren’t messing around when it comes to cannabis.
Seattle cannabis clubs
While cannabis laws have come a long way in the last few decades, cannabis activists haven’t given up the fight. They’re still pushing for the legislation to be relaxed in many areas, and the focus of their attention lately is for the law to allow cannabis clubs.
If you want to have a drink with your buddies, you can head down to a bar and shoot the breeze. But there are currently no public spaces where you can do the same thing while passing around a joint.
Well, there are no legal spaces anyway… Rumour has it that there are a number of underground, members-only cannabis clubs springing up around Seattle. If you live in a shared house or have a family that doesn’t appreciate the earthy aroma of cannabis filling every crevice of the house, these can offer a sanctuary for relaxation and peace of mind.
But be warned, cannabis clubs are not legal and don’t offer immunity from the law.
However, they do exist in a grey area that is ripe for exploitation. For example, if you’re coming from out of state to visit Seattle dispensaries, there are many hostels and hotels that are 4:20 friendly and will allow you to (legally) consume cannabis on their property.
Involving a minor in a drug offense
When it comes to age limits the law is clear and can come down on all parties involved like a ton of bricks.
If you’re under 21 years of age and caught with cannabis, you’ll have your driving privileges revoked for one year or until you’re 17 (whichever comes sooner).
If you are under the legal age and caught in possession a subsequent time, you’ll have your driving privileges revoked for 2 years or until you are 18 years old (whichever comes first).
However, for an adult that involves a minor in a drug offense, the penalties are much more severe. If someone is caught violating Washington state marijuana laws in a way that involves a minor (either through payments, solicitations, threats, etc), they will be charged with a felony. Selling to minors or involving them in the sale or distribution of weed is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Consuming cannabis responsibly
Now you know the laws around buying and possessing herb, so let’s get up to speed on your personal wellbeing in relation to consuming cannabis.
The first thing to be said is that nowadays there are several different ways to get the goodness of cannabis into your system, and each method has a different potential effect on your health.
Smoking blunts, joints, pipes, and bongs are the traditional consumption methods, but as we all think about the health of our lungs more than ever these days, smoking is slowly falling out of fashion.
Vaporizing weed is less damaging for your airways, but it is a relatively new craze and the effects are not fully known. Edibles have seen a huge revival, as have sublingual drops. Both of these methods are seen as a safer way into the world of cannabis for newcomers.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t operate a vehicle, power tools, or heavy machine if you’re under the influence of cannabis.
And while there are conflicting reports on the effects of consuming cannabis whilst pregnant and nursing, doctors advise avoiding contact with cannabis if you’re in these conditions.
One last point here is that cannabis can interact with prescription medication. Always consult your doctor if you’re thinking about using weed whilst on any kind of medical treatment.
Keeping a handle on your habit
Cannabis can be an amazing way to help you chill out and shake away the stress of day-to-day life. For some, kicking back with the warm buzz of a joint is the only thing keeping them sane.
But at the same time, just like food, sugary drinks, or Netflix binges, it’s easy to slip into a habit that isn’t serving you as it should.
So as a final word, here are a few things you can do to stay in control of your weed habit.
- Only smoke in the evenings
Smoking is fine once and a while, but before you know it, you can’t get out of bed without lighting up. To counter this, my personal rule is I only smoke in the evening once all my daily chores are done. It makes it feel like you’ve really earned it.
- Rest days
You wouldn’t work out 7 days a week, right? So why push your mind to the limit with cannabis? Limiting yourself to a smoke only every other day is a great way to stop yourself from falling into a habit of dependency.
- Tolerance breaks
We’ve all been there. At first, one bong would be enough. Then you’d need a bong and a joint. And before you know if you have to smoke a whole gram just to feel a slight buzz. It’s easy to build up a tolerance that has you consuming more and more. Taking a break for a week or two can reset your tolerance, and slash how much you need to smoke to get lean.