Washington Marijuana Research License

Interested in starting a Cannabis business in Washington?

What is a Marijuana Research License in Washington?

A marijuana research license in Washington is a permit that enables the holder to produce, possess, and process marijuana for the purpose of conducting scientific research. Scientific research, under the law, is limited to the following:

  1. Testing the chemical potencies and composition levels of marijuana samples
  2. Conducting clinical investigations into drugs and medications derived from marijuana
  3. Conducting genomic or agricultural research on marijuana seeds, plants, and products
  4. Researching the efficacy and safety of marijuana as part of a medical treatment

A marijuana research license enables the license holder to cultivate and possess marijuana; however, license holders may only sell marijuana they produce within their operations to other research license holders. Marijuana research license holders are not permitted to sell marijuana or marijuana products to marijuana businesses or consumers. Marijuana research license holders who violate this rule will have their licenses revoked and face other punitive measures.

To obtain a marijuana research license in Washington, the applicant’s research project must receive approval from a designated Scientific Reviewer. A scientific reviewer is an organization that ascertains if a research project satisfies the requirements for a marijuana research license. To do so, the organization must retain persons experienced and trained in research methods, practices, and processes for this purpose. A scientific reviewer will also review and assess any reports submitted by a license holder under the regulations of the WSLCB. Marijuana research licenses in Washington are issued by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB).

What Agency Reviews Marijuana Research License Applications in Washington?

Entities that wish to conduct research on marijuana and marijuana-infused products must obtain a research license from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB). Section 69.50.372 of the Revised Code of Washington State regulates the application for marijuana research licenses in the state. Section 314-55-073 of the Washington Administrative Code covers the regulations of the WSLCB for marijuana in the state. This includes the eligibility of applicants, the continuing requirements for receiving a license, prohibitions, and restrictions.

While the statute establishing business licenses was enacted in 2016, the issuing of cannabis research licenses did not commence until 2018. This was primarily because of the difficulty experienced by the WSLCB in appointing a scientific reviewer. Initially, either the University of Washington or Washington State University had been expected to volunteer for the position, but neither institution did. Eventually, the WSLCB designated Dynamite Ag, Inc. as the official scientific reviewer for marijuana research licenses in the state.

How To Apply For A Marijuana Research License in Washington?

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) licenses all marijuana operations and business entities in the state. Applying for a marijuana research license in Washington requires submitting an application for a business license to the Washington Department of Revenue (DOR). The Business Licensing Service of the DOR licenses all businesses in Washington. Applications for marijuana research licenses can be submitted online or via mail to:

Business Licensing Service

P.O.Box 9034

Olympia, WA 98507-9034

All applicants and researchers involved in a marijuana research project must be at least 21 years old and residents of the state. An applicant must complete the Business License Application and Marijuana Addendum and submit it along with the application fees to the Business Licensing Service. If the application is accepted, the WSLCB will send a notification to the applicant directing them to submit additional documentation to the designated scientific reviewer. These documents will include:

  • A completed marijuana research license application form from the WSLCB, which includes a cover form and signature page.
  • A research plan limited to eight pages that provides the following details:
    • Goals and objectives of the project
    • Milestones and timelines
    • All preliminary and background studies
    • Quantity of marijuana to be cultivated, with justifications
    • All anticipated costs and available funding for the project
    • Key personnel and organizational structure
    • Available facilities, equipment, and other resources required for the project

The scientific reviewer will review the application and indicate to the WSLCB if it should be approved. Upon receiving approval from the scientific reviewer and before receiving the license, the applicant will be required to:

  • Submit to a criminal background check, along with any persons with controlling interest in the license
  • Provide financial information to the WSLCB
  • Disclose details of the project funding, including amounts, timelines, and sources
  • Fulfill all facility security and disposal requirements
  • Display proficiency and access to the traceability system
  • Pay the license issuance fee

While there are no statutory restrictions on who can apply for a marijuana research license in Washington, possessing a criminal record might affect an applicant’s chances. The WSLCB utilizes a point-based system that assigns 12 points to a felony, 5 points for a gross misdemeanor, and 4 points for a misdemeanor. Persons currently under supervision by state or federal authorities are assigned 8 points. The non-disclosure of any information on a criminal background attracts a penalty of 4 points. Preference is given to persons who have lived, or live, in areas considered to have been disproportionately impacted by the “war on drugs”.

Marijuana research licenses in Washington are valid for one year and require annual renewals. License holders can only renew their marijuana research licenses if they have an approved research project still ongoing or a pending application for a new research project. Marijuana research license holders will receive notifications from the WSLCB 90 days before the renewal dates of their licenses. Each license renewal applicant must send a status report or an application for a new research project to the scientific reviewer within 30 days of receiving their 90 day-notification. If the scientific reviewer approves the renewal, they will send a notification to the WSLCB no later than 15 days before the license renewal date.

How Much Does A Marijuana Research License Cost in Washington?

The application for a marijuana research license in Washington costs a non-refundable fee of $250. This fee must be paid to the Department of Revenue (DOR) when submitting the business license application. Successful applicants will pay a fee of $1,300 to receive their marijuana research licenses from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB). Any costs that accrue from the scientific review are paid directly to the scientific reviewer. Marijuana research licenses in Washington must be renewed annually and the renewal fee is $1,300.

Can A Marijuana Research Licensee Hold Other Marijuana Licenses In Washington?

There are no restrictions that prevent a marijuana research licensee from holding other marijuana licenses in Washington; however, there are conditions that must be met:

  • Persons who possess marijuana business licenses must keep the facility where the cannabis research is performed completely separated from the business facilities.
  • Licensed marijuana producers in the state may grow marijuana for research at their official premises. However, all marijuana for research must be separated from marijuana for commercial purposes and must not be commingled or diverted for other uses
  • Licensed marijuana processors in the state may possess marijuana for research at their official locations. Research marijuana must be separated from commercial marijuana and processors without producers’ licenses may not grow cannabis for research on the premises. Research and commercial products must be separated and should not be diverted for other uses
  • Laboratories certified by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) to perform quality assurance testing on cannabis may apply for a research license. Marijuana for research should not be mixed up with marijuana for testing or diverted for any other reasons

As of early 2024, all available marijuana licenses for producers, processors, and retailers have been awarded by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB).

In this section:
Washington Marijuana Research License