Cultivating cannabis in Whatcom County for both medical and adult use is legal. In 1998, Initiative 692 (I-692) legalized the use of cannabis for certain medical conditions in the State of Washington. Subsequently, Initiative 502 (I-502) in 2012 legalized the recreational use of cannabis in the state by adults who are 21 years old and above. On November 20, 2014, Whatcom County Ordinance No. 2014-053 allowed the production, processing, and retailing of marijuana in accordance with the Washington State Initiatives.
The Cannabis Patient Protection Act codified as the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapter 69.51A, and RCW 69.50 cover the rules governing medical and adult-use cannabis. The regulation of medical cannabis falls under the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) while the regulation of adult-use cannabis is under the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB).
Personal cannabis cultivation at home for their own medical use only is allowed for certain patients or their designated providers. A patient must have a Washington State medical marijuana authorization form to qualify to grow a maximum of four medical cannabis plants. Medical marijuana cardholding patients registered in the Medical Cannabis Authorization Database must have authorization from their healthcare practitioner to qualify to grow a maximum of 15 medical cannabis plants. The authorization form or medical marijuana card will indicate the number of plants that a patient is allowed to grow. In addition to the plants, the patient is allowed to have eight ounces of medical cannabis at home.
RCW 69.51A.010 defines a designated provider as being aged 21 or older and is the parent or guardian of a registered patient below 18 years old, or registered to purchase medical cannabis for an adult registered patient in need of assistance. Designated providers are given their own medical marijuana cards to purchase for their patients but are not allowed to use or consume medical marijuana.
RCW 69.51A.260 limits the number of medical cannabis plants in one residence to a maximum of 15 even if several registered patients reside there. The medical cannabis plants or products, or any activity related to medical cannabis, must not be seen or smelled from outside the residence.
RCW 69.51A.250 allows up to four registered patients or designated providers, all 21 years old or older, to register a cooperative with the WSLCB, provided they all have their respective healthcare practitioner’s authorization. They will be allowed to grow together a maximum of 60 medical cannabis plants in one location but may not grow any plants on their own at home. In addition to the plants, cooperative members are allowed to have a maximum of 72 ounces of medical cannabis in the cultivation location.
The location must be the home of one of the cooperative members. It must be in a county, city, or town that allows the establishment of a cultivation cooperative. It must be more than a mile from a licensed cannabis retailer and more than 1,000 feet from any childcare facility, school up to the secondary level, library, playground, public park, recreation facility, public transportation center, or game arcade admitting minors.
A patient or designated provider can only join one cooperative and must actively participate in the cultivation process. There can only be one cooperative in one location. A copy of each member’s medical marijuana card must be kept at the cooperative’s location.
Personal home growers or cooperative growers of medical cannabis are not allowed to sell or give away the cannabis they have grown or any products derived from them. The seeds or immature plants they need for cultivation must be sourced from licensed cannabis producers. They are responsible for ensuring that their medical cannabis is secured against thievery and access by unauthorized persons.
Businesses that intend to cultivate medical and adult-use cannabis commercially must apply for a cannabis producer license from the WSLCB. As of February 2023, however, applications are closed. Applications were last accepted on December 18, 2013.
In addition to cultivation and harvesting, the cannabis producer license authorizes the holder to cure cannabis that may then be sold to fellow licensed producers and licensed processors. Furthermore, the cannabis producer licensee is allowed to sell plants and seeds to registered patients, designated providers, and cooperatives provided they are qualified for home growing.
In accordance with RCW 69.50.325, there is a cannabis producer license application fee of $250.00 and a yearly license issuance or renewal fee of $1,381.00. An applicant must pay a separate application and license fee for every cultivation facility location. RCW 69.50.331(8) states that the licensed cultivation facility must be more than 1,000 feet from any public playground, childcare establishment, school up to the secondary level, library, public park, recreational facility, public transport hub, or game arcade open to minors. Counties and other local authorities may lower the buffer to 100 feet from any childcare establishment, recreational facility, game arcade allowing minors, public park, library, or public transport hub.
Manufacturing cannabis in Whatcom County is legal for both medical and adult-use products as stipulated by RCW 69.51A, RCW 69.50, and Whatcom County Ordinance No. 2014-053. For a business to manufacture medical and recreational cannabis commercially, it must acquire from the WSLCB a cannabis processor license. The application and licensing fees as well as the location limitations are the same as those for cannabis producer licenses. As of February 2023, applications are likewise closed.
The cannabis processor licensee is authorized to manufacture all types of cannabis products and package and label these before selling them to fellow licensed cannabis processors and licensed cannabis retailers.
The retail selling of both medical and adult-use cannabis in Whatcom County is legal by virtue of RCW 69.51A, RCW 69.50, and Whatcom County Ordinance No. 2014-053. A cannabis retailer license granted by the WSLCB is required for a company to do so. As of February 2023, such applications are, however, closed.
In addition to the cannabis retailer license, a medical cannabis endorsement also issued by the WSLCB is required by Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 314-55-080 to legally dispense medical cannabis and compliant cannabis products that have a high content of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for medical marijuana cardholders. Cannabis products are deemed compliant after passing the testing and vetting of the Department of Health. Products are deemed to have a high THC content if one serving or dose contains more than 10 milligrams and up to 50 milligrams.
The cannabis retailer application and licensing fees and location requirements are identical to those for cannabis producer and processor licenses. The holder of the cannabis retailer license and medical endorsement is allowed by RCW 69.50.357 and WAC 314-55-080 to sell cannabis and cannabis products in all forms, both for medical and recreational use, including edibles, as well as paraphernalia and accessories related to the administration and storage of cannabis. These can only be sold to holders of medical marijuana cards and medical marijuana authorization forms, as well as adults aged 21 or older who present valid ID cards showing their birthdate. The licensed cannabis retailer also has the discretion to provide a holder of a medical marijuana card or medical marijuana authorization form with medical cannabis for free.
Medical marijuana cardholders below the age of 18 may enter licensed cannabis retail facilities but are prohibited from purchasing medical cannabis. Only their designated providers can do so.
There are varying purchase limits for qualified cannabis purchasers. Individuals who show valid IDs proving they are aged 21 and above, as well as holders of a medical marijuana authorization form, may purchase the following:
Consumable cannabis: one ounce
Cannabis concentrate: Seven grams
Solid cannabis-infused product: 16 ounces
Liquid cannabis-infused product: 72 ounces
Medical marijuana cardholders have a higher limit, as follows:
Consumable cannabis: three ounces
Cannabis concentrate: 21 grams
Solid cannabis-infused product: 48 ounces
Liquid cannabis-infused product: 267 ounces
The delivery of medical or adult-use cannabis to medical marijuana cardholders or persons aged 21 and older in Whatcom County is illegal. According to RCW 69.50.382, the delivery of any form of cannabis is only legal from and to licensed producers, processors, retailers, and researchers.
To get a medical marijuana card in Whatcom County, it is necessary to register in the Medical Cannabis Authorization Database. A patient must be examined by a healthcare practitioner who will issue a medical marijuana authorization form if the patient is afflicted with any of the following illnesses:
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Spasticity or seizure disorders
Chronic renal failure that needs hemodialysis
Traumatic brain injury
Hepatitis C accompanied by debilitating nausea or intractable pain
Crohn's disease with debilitating symptoms
Any illness that causes spasticity, seizures, spasms, cramping, wasting, appetite loss, nausea, or vomiting
The patient must submit the medical marijuana authorization form to a medically endorsed retail cannabis facility, where a consultant will check it against the patient’s ID. A photo of the patient and any designated caregiver will be taken. The photo and information from the authorization form will be uploaded by the consultant to the Medical Cannabis Authorization Database. The medical marijuana cards will then be printed out and laminated. The patient and the designated provider must each pay $1. The fee will be sent by the retail facility to the DOH while the patient will be given back the authorization form.
Further inquiries may be sent to the following:
In the State of Washington, these cannabis products are exempted from retail sales and use taxes:
Cannabis products purchased by medical marijuana cardholders
Cannabis with a THC content of 0.3% or lower donated to medical marijuana cardholders
Non-digestible topical cannabis products with a THC content of 0.3% or lower that are sold or
donated to qualifying patients by some healthcare professionals
Cannabis and cannabis products acquired by members from their cooperative’s production
Cannabis products with high cannabidiol (CBD) content purchased by medical marijuana cardholders or adults aged 21 or older, except those intended to be smoked
The DOH defines high-CBD products as follows:
Cannabis concentrates with not less than 25 times more CBD and not more than 2% THC by weight
Edible cannabis-infused goods containing not less than five times more CBD and not more than 2% THC, by volume for liquids and by weight for solids
Topical cannabis-infused preparations that contain not less than five times more CBD compared to THC
All sales of cannabis and cannabis products in the state, even those that are exempted from retail sales and use taxes, are subject to a 37% cannabis excise tax. These revenues, as well as licensing fees, go to the WSLCB.
According to Washington State University’s 2020 Contributions of the Washington Cannabis Sector, cannabis sales in Whatcom County increased from about $8,000 in 2015 to more than $40,000 in 2020, with per capita sales of $173.12. Throughout the State of Washington, cannabis sales totaled more than $2 billion in 2020 compared to $260 million in 2015. Excise taxes, therefore, increased as well from $64.9 million in 2015 to $468.5 million in 2020, a jump of 623%.
The WSLCB’s Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2021 presents the 2021 state income from cannabis license fees, fines, and tax revenue to come to about $559.5 million from around $474 million in 2020. As mandated by RCW 69.50.540, the Washington State Treasurer reported the following allocation of funds:
Washington State Patrol: $2.3 million
Washington State Department of Health: $9.7 million
Local Governments: $15 million
Washington State Health Care Authority: $54 million
General Fund: $191 million
Basic Health: $272 million
Others: $1.8 million
Medical cannabis in Whatcom County was legalized in 1998, whereas adult-use cannabis was legalized in 2012.
Data from the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office on the FBI’s Crime Explorer page shows that in 1997, there were 121 arrests related to marijuana offenses, of which 95 were for marijuana possession, and 26 were for marijuana manufacturing or sales. In 2021, there were no arrests related to marijuana offenses.
There were 85 DUI arrests in 1997. This increased to 97 DUI arrests in 2021.