Cultivation of marijuana is legal in Pierce County. The Washington State Medical Use of Cannabis Law (Washington Revised Code 69.51A) legalized cannabis for medical purposes in Washington. This law is also known as the Cannabis Patient Protection Act. In Washington, a medical marijuana cardholder can plant up to six marijuana plants in their residence. A maximum of 15 plants can be planted in residences with multiple medical marijuana patients. Home cultivation of cannabis for recreational use is prohibited in the state.
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) regulates marijuana businesses in the state, including commercial cannabis cultivators. In 2013, the Washington Uniform Controlled Substances Act (Washington Revised Code 69.50) was enacted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state. The Act permits the cultivation of marijuana by licensed marijuana producers and also established the following three categories of producer licenses in Washington State:
The Pierce County Marijuana-Related Uses ordinance permits only indoor cultivation of marijuana in a fully enclosed indoor facility or greenhouse. Outdoor cultivation of marijuana is illegal in Pierce County. Cultivation of marijuana in Pierce County is limited to the Community Employment (CE) and Employment Center (EC) zoning areas. The ordinance limits a licensed indoor marijuana producer to 10,000 square feet of cultivation land. Therefore, Tier 3 producer license is prohibited in the county. An intending marijuana producer in Pierce County must obtain a Conditional Use Permit. A Conditional Use Permit indicates that the business requires additional controls and conditions to reduce the impact on adjacent lands.
Cannabis manufacturing is legal in Pierce County. The Washington Uniform Controlled Substances Act permits marijuana processor licensees to process marijuana into marijuana products. Marijuana processors are allowed by the Act to sell marijuana products to other marijuana processors or marijuana retailers. A marijuana processor interested in making marijuana-infused products intended to be taken orally (marijuana edibles) must obtain a marijuana-infused edible endorsement from the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
Per the Marijuana-Related Uses ordinance, marijuana Processors in Pierce County must obtain Conditional Use Permits. In addition, marijuana processors are limited to the Employment Center (EC), Community Employment (CE), and Mixed Use District (MUD) zones.
It is legal to sell cannabis in Pierce County. Per the Washington Uniform Controlled Substances Act, marijuana retailers can sell marijuana products to adults aged 21 and above. They can sell marijuana concentrates, marijuana-infused products, and marijuana paraphernalia. Marijuana edibles are approved for sale in the county.
Chapter 314-55-080 of the Washington Administrative Code mandates marijuana retailers interested in selling cannabis products to medical marijuana patients to obtain medical marijuana endorsements from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). They are required to maintain the services of medical marijuana consultants on their premises. These medical marijuana consultants must be equipped to register qualifying patients and designated providers in the Washington State Medical Marijuana Authorization Database.
The Pierce County Marijuana-Related Uses ordinance also requires marijuana retailers to get Conditional Use Permits. In addition, they are prohibited from operating between 12 a.m. and 8 a.m. in the county. They are limited to the following zoning areas:
Delivery of marijuana is prohibited in Washington and Pierce County. Chapter 314-55-079 (5) of the Washington Administrative Code prohibits the delivery of cannabis to consumers in their residences. Cannabis delivery is also illegal for medical marijuana patients in Pierce County.
The medical marijuana card is a voluntary identification card issued by the Department of Health. It is given to patients registered on the Washington State Medical Marijuana Authorization Database. Medical marijuana cards allow cardholders to buy marijuana products at a lower price than recreational marijuana in medically-endorsed retail stores and grow marijuana for personal use in their residences. Pierce County residents interested in registering for medical marijuana cards must schedule an appointment with health care professionals to obtain Medical Marijuana Authorizations. Health care professionals permitted to issue medical marijuana authorizations are:
A health care professional will issue a medical marijuana authorization if the patient suffers from one of the following qualifying medical conditions:
The applicant must take the medical marijuana authorization to a medically-endorsed marijuana retailer to get a medical marijuana card. An applicant can find a list of medically-endorsed marijuana retailers in Pierce County on the DOH website. A medical marijuana consultant in the marijuana retail store will input the applicant’s information into the Medical Marijuana Authorization Database. The applicant will be required to pay a registration fee of $1. The law permits medically-endorsed marijuana retailers to add operational costs to the fees paid by applicants. Medical marijuana cards for adults aged 18 and above are valid for 12 months. Medical marijuana cards for minor patients are valid for six months. Medical marijuana patients under the age of 18 years may require caregivers (designated providers) who are either their parents or legal guardians.
The Washington Uniform Controlled Substances Act imposes a 37% sales tax on marijuana products intended for recreational use in the state. The revenue from the sales of marijuana and licensing of marijuana businesses is paid to an account controlled by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. The Act mandates that a portion of the revenue be given to local governments, including Pierce County.
The WSLCB reported $559.5 million in income from marijuana tax and license fees in 2021, $15 million of which was shared by local governments, including Pierce County. In 2020, $15 million was also shared by local governments from the $473.9 million income the state made from cannabis tax and license fees.
The Pierce County Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports do not indicate the revenue made from marijuana. However, the "2020 Contributions of the Washington Cannabis Sector" report by the Washington State University (WSU) Impact Center shows that Pierce County received $16,424.91 from WSLCB for cannabis sales tax in 2015. In 2020, the revenue from cannabis sales tax had increased to $159,543.36, an increase of 871.35% in five years. Therefore, the legalization of marijuana has positively affected the economy of Pierce County.
According to the crime data submitted by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), there were 206 marijuana possession arrests and 18 marijuana sales arrests in 2012. In 2013 when the Washington Uniform Controlled Substances Act became effective, there were 76 marijuana possession arrests and nine marijuana sales arrests. In 2020, there were 19 marijuana possession arrests and one marijuana sales arrest. Pierce County marijuana possession and sales arrests from 2012 to 2020 showed that there had been a decrease in marijuana possession and sales arrests figures since the legalization of marijuana in the state.
In 2020, the year with the most recent arrest figures for Pierce County, the 19 marijuana possession arrests represent a 91% decrease from the 206 marijuana possession arrests recorded in 2012. The single marijuana sales arrest in 2020 represents a 95% decrease from the 18 marijuana sales arrests recorded in the county in 2012. According to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, there were 280 and 229 DUI (Driving Under the Influence) arrests in 2012 and 2013 respectively. These figures fell to 171 in 2020 and represent a 39% decline in DUI arrests between 2012 and 2020.
After analyzing marijuana-related crime data for Pierce County in the years before and after marijuana became fully legal in the State of Washington, it is clear that marijuana possession and sales arrests significantly declined. DUI arrest numbers (including marijuana-related DUI arrests) for the county were also reduced following the enactment of the Washington Uniform Controlled Substances Act.