While cannabis cultivation for medical and adult use was legalized in the State of Washington by Initiative 692 (I-692), Initiative 502 (I-502), the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapter 69.51A, and RCW Chapter 69.50, Benton County Code’s Chapter 11.42.130 prohibits all types of cannabis cultivation businesses in unincorporated areas.
However, cities and towns of the county may have their own rules regarding medical and adult-use cannabis cultivation businesses. For instance, the cities of Benton and Prosser allow medical and adult-use cannabis cultivation companies that are licensed by both the state and the city. On the other hand, the City of Kennewick prohibits adult-use cannabis cultivation companies. Meanwhile, the cities of Richland and West Richland mirror the total prohibition of all medical and adult-use cannabis cultivation businesses like Benton County.
Chapter 11.42.130 only allows qualified patients and caregivers in unincorporated areas of Benton County to grow medical cannabis in their respective single-family homes exclusively for personal use, subject to RCW 69.51A. However, they are prohibited from growing medical cannabis for personal use as a cooperative even if RCW 69.51A.250 allows it.
According to information provided by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), a qualified patient or caregiver holding a Washington State medical marijuana authorization form is allowed to grow up to four medical cannabis plants at home. A qualified patient or caregiver enrolled in the Medical Cannabis Authorization Database and holding a Washington medical marijuana card may seek a physician’s authorization to grow up to 15 medical cannabis plants at home. The specific number authorized must be stated in the authorization and in the medical cannabis card. No matter how many qualified patients or caregivers reside in the same single-family dwelling, RCW 69.51A.260 puts a cap of 15 on the total number of medical cannabis plants they can grow.
Chapter 6A.25 of the Benton County Code requires that the home cultivation and storage of medical cannabis for personal use be hidden from the view of the public or any nearby private residence. No odors from medical cannabis must be smelled outside the home.
The State of Washington’s I-692 and I-502, as well as RCW 69.51A and RCW 69.50, legalized the manufacturing of medical and adult-use cannabis products. Still, Benton County Code Chapter 11.42.130 prohibits any type of cannabis manufacturing business within its unincorporated areas. The chapter also prohibits qualified patients and caregivers from processing medical cannabis products out of the medical cannabis plants they are allowed to grow at home.
Towns and cities of the county are, however, permitted to create their own ordinances with regard to medical and adult-use cannabis manufacturing businesses. The cities of Benton and Prosser, for example, allow medical and adult-use cannabis manufacturing companies that hold state and city licenses. Meanwhile, in the City of Kennewick, adult-use cannabis manufacturing companies are banned. The cities of Richland and West Richland, like Benton County, disallow all medical and adult-use cannabis manufacturing businesses.
The retail selling of medical and adult-use cannabis was legalized by I-692, I-502, RCW 69.51A, and RCW 69.50 in the State of Washington but Chapter 11.42.130 of the Benton County Code does not allow any type of cannabis retail facility in its jurisdiction.
Cities and towns within the county may, however, have their own ordinances governing medical and adult-use cannabis retail businesses. For instance, there is one licensed medically-endorsed marijuana retail store each in the cities of Prosser, Kennewick, and Richland. Benton City also allows medical and adult-use cannabis retail stores that hold a state license and a city permit. The City of West Richland, however, prohibits medical and adult-use cannabis retail stores.
The delivery of even medical cannabis to medical cannabis cardholders is illegal in Benton County and the rest of the State of Washington.
Benton County residents may qualify to apply for the State of Washington’s medical marijuana card if they have any of the following terminal or debilitating medical conditions:
● Multiple sclerosis
● Crohn's disease
● Hepatitis C accompanied by nausea or intractable pain
● Intractable pain
● Post-traumatic stress disorder
● Spasticity or seizure disorders
● Traumatic brain injury
● Chronic renal failure requiring hemodialysis
● Illnesses causing spasticity, spasms, seizures, cramping, appetite loss, wasting, nausea, or vomiting
They must be examined and diagnosed by any of the following medical practitioners:
A medical doctor licensed to practice in the State of Washington under RCW 18.71
An osteopathic doctor licensed to practice in the State of Washington under RCW 18.57
A naturopathic doctor licensed to practice in the State of Washington under RCW 18.36A
A physician assistant licensed to practice in the State of Washington under RCW 18.71A
An osteopathic physician assistant licensed to practice in the State of Washington under RCW 18.57A
An advanced registered nurse practitioner licensed to practice in the State of Washington under RCW 18.79
To qualify to authorize the use of medical cannabis by patients, a state-licensed medical practitioner must also go through not less than three hours of continuing education on cannabis. This must cover cannabis pharmacology, the differentiation between tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), the medical use and effects of cannabis, methods of cannabis administration, and possible risks and side effects of cannabis usage, among others.
Upon arriving at a qualifying diagnosis, the medical practitioner will issue a medical marijuana authorization form. This must be presented by the patient to a licensed and medically endorsed cannabis dispensary that employs a Washington DOH-certified medical cannabis consultant.
A certified medical cannabis consultant has undergone a 20-hour training program approved by the DOH and is required to complete another 10 hours of DOH-approved continuing education in order to renew the certification yearly. The licensed medical cannabis dispensary is required to display the consultant’s certification prominently within the facility.
The consultant will verify the patient’s identification by asking for a valid ID card. The consultant will then take the patient’s photo and upload it with the authorization form to the Medical Cannabis Authorization Database. The authorization form will be returned to the patient.
If the patient needs a caregiver, the caregiver must accompany the patient and also present a valid ID to the certified medical cannabis consultant in the licensed medically endorsed cannabis dispensary. The caregiver will have to undergo the same process as the patient.
The certified dispensary consultant will print and laminate the medical cannabis cards. A $1 fee must each be paid by the patient and caregiver. This will be sent by the licensed dispensary to the DOH.
Patients residing in unincorporated areas of Benton County may go to any of the licensed medically endorsed cannabis retail stores in the cities of Prosser, Kennewick, and Richland.
More information may be requested through the following channels:
Since Benton County does not allow any type of medical or adult-use cannabis businesses in its unincorporated areas, it does not benefit economically from the legalization of medical and adult-use cannabis.
Other local governments that allow medical and adult-use cannabis businesses benefit economically from these. According to the Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Report of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB), the State of Washington earned $515,194,642 in FY22 from medical and adult-use cannabis tax revenues, license fees, and penalties. Of this amount, $20 million was returned to local governments that had contributed to the funds.
The 2022 revenues show a significant increase from the previous year. According to the same report, the state earned $559,493,474 in FY21, of which $15 million was returned to contributing local governments.
Only the home growing of medical cannabis by qualified patients and caregivers is allowed in Benton County even if the State of Washington legalized medical cannabis in 1998 and adult-use cannabis in 2012.
Data from the Benton County Sheriff's Office on the FBI’s Crime Explorer page shows that a year before medical cannabis legalization, in 1997, there were 120 marijuana offense arrests, with 108 for possession and 12 for manufacturing or sales.
A year after medical cannabis legislation, in 1999, there were 114 marijuana offense arrests, with 110 for possession and four for manufacturing or sales.
A year after adult-use cannabis legislation, in 2013, there were 41 marijuana offense arrests, with 40 for possession and one for manufacturing or sales.
In the latest available data, in 2021, there were no marijuana offense arrests.
The following were the DUI arrests in those years:
1997: 93 arrests
1999: 110 arrests
2013: 123 arrests
2021: 68 arrests