These are Washington’s recreational cannabis possession limits directly from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis board are as follows:
Adults 21 and over can purchase up to one ounce of usable cannabis flower, 16 ounces of cannabis-infused edibles in solid form, 72 ounces of cannabis drinkables, and 7 grams of cannabis concentrates.
If you’re a registered medical cannabis patient, the limits are:
Three ounces of usable cannabis flower, forty-eight ounces of cannabis-infused edibles in solid form, two hundred sixteen ounces of cannabis drinkables, and twenty-one grams of cannabis concentrates, per the Washington State Department of Health.
The Sweet Leaf Fiasco
For the short amount of time, I was a budtender in cannabis retail, I heard whispers of other stores letting people buy amounts of cannabis beyond the legal limits. As long as they made multiple trips to the store and never had more than the legal limit on them during one of those trips, it was presumed to be a gray area of the law. The truth is, there’s nothing gray about cannabis possession limits.
At the end of 2018, Colorado completed a complex investigation involving the Sweet Leaf cannabis retail chain for egregious “looping” violations. Looping is a term for what I described above, buying the legal limit of cannabis, taking it to your car, and returning to the store to buy more. The raid was carried out by state law-enforcement agents and resulted in 13 employee arrests, 10 of which were charged with either misdemeanor or felony distribution of cannabis, The Cannabist reports.
During the investigation, the Denver Police Department conducted stings involving undercover officers posing as “loopers.” During the sting, budtenders, and door people were open about looping policies and gave loopers tips like parking outside of the buildings surveillance system. One undercover officer bought 6.6 ounces of cannabis during the same day and during a stake-out, officers witnessed an out of state customers purchase three-pounds of cannabis. After this customer was arrested, police soon discovered the customer planned to repackage and sell Sweet Leaf’s cannabis in a different state’s black market.
The Sweet Leaf fiasco in Colorado is a stern reminder to any state-regulated cannabis industry to why to follow the law. Sweet Leaf employees knowingly broke the state law and allowed loopers to purchase egregious amounts of cannabis, which in some instances contributed to neighboring states illegal cannabis markets. Budtenders are gatekeepers for the lawful sale of cannabis that can make or break a recreational shop.
Why Washington Needs To Take Cannabis Possession Limits Seriously
These limits may seem arbitrary, but it doesn’t matter. Those limits are the law. Budtenders and store owners need to adhere to these laws for several reasons. Cannabis prohibition is still alive and well in many places in this country. Contributing to that issue with Washington product makes our state look careless for contributing to the violence that is connected to illegal cannabis sales. It’s also extremely unfair to farmers and processors. They expect their products to be consumed in the state, not to be contributing to crime and potential violence is another state.
Ever since the state’s traceability system hasn’t been working properly, cannabis products have become even harder to track. This puts even more emphasis on retail owners and budtenders to sell within the confines of the law. It’s illegal to take Washington cannabis outside of Washington, so if a customer does, it’s on them, there’s nothing you can do about it. But if you sell that customer more than the legal limit, and they get busted out of state, that’s on the budtender that sold the product as well. Oregon and Idaho have reported more cannabis being confiscated during traffic stops involving cars coming from Washington, The News Tribune reports.
These laws keep customers who are uneducated about cannabis laws from getting in trouble. Many customers trust and expect budtenders to know what the law is. If a budtender takes advantage of a customer to make the business more money or hustle a bigger tip, and that customer gets pulled over by the police, they could be in trouble just because they trusted the wrong budtender. This makes it important for business owners to take hiring practices seriously and trust employees before you leave them on the floor unattended.
The obvious reason for everyone to follow cannabis laws to the letter is to keep Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions’ watchful eyes out of our state. If you don’t think he wasn’t paying attention to what happened to Sweet Leaf in Colorado, you’re out of your mind. Justin Costello, hedge fund manager and CEO of Pacific Merchant Processing told me something once that is hyper-relevant here, and it’s if you think your enemies are stupid, you’re stupid. Sweet Leaf seemingly thought the Denver Police department was stupid and it cost them their livelihood. If Washington budtenders and business owners think the WSLCB isn’t paying more attention to the industry’s adherence to state laws after the Sweet Leaf situation, you’re stupid.
Never Take Legal Cannabis For Granted
Last week WSLCB agents raided a cannabis farmers market in Tacoma. The Patient Cannabis Exchange (PWE.) Cannabis medical card holders were exchanging cannabis with their caretakers. Caretakers are other medical card holders that are granted permission to grow weed strictly for themselves and other patients.
Agents arrested people that had outstanding warrants and confiscated all product and money. The owner of the PWE said there was nothing illegal happening and no cease and desist order was served before the raid occurred. Maybe the PWE was breaking the law, but some believe this was the WSLCB flexing their authority to crack down on untaxed cannabis transactions, Komo News reports.
It’s unfortunate the PWE was raided, but recreational employees should heed this as a warning. If the WSLCB is willing to raid a small medical farmers market that may or may not have been breaking the law, why would they hesitate to raid a recreational dispensary for actually breaking state law?
It’s important to remember that cannabis is still a schedule I drug under the Controlled Substance Act and illegal on the federal level. Federal cannabis protections no longer exists and federal prosecutors have permission from AG Jeff Session himself to go after state cannabis operation that isn’t in accordance with federal law. Smoking cannabis in our state isn’t a right, it’s a privilege. A privilege that can be seriously tested if Washington’s cannabis industry isn’t careful.