In 1998, Washington Initiative 692 approved medical cannabis use for patients with terminal and debilitating conditions then, on December 6, 2012, it became the first state to make recreational cannabis use legal (click here for more Washington state history).

As a state with more experience with cannabis policy implementation, Washington has a more structured approach to Responsible Vendor Training (RVT) than programs that have been implemented in many states (Colorado RVT, Mass Basic/Advanced RVT, Illinois RVT, West Virginia RVT, Alaska “Handler Permit”, etc.).

Each dispensary and retail store must have a medical cannabis consultant on staff who has completed the twenty (20) hour Consultant Certification Program approved by the Department of Health. Below is an overview of medical and recreational cannabis policies followed by a description of the Washington State Medical Cannabis Consultant Certification Program.


Washington State Medical Cannabis Patients

The Cannabis Patient Protection Act went into effect July 1, 2016, thus allowing patients with terminal or debilitating conditions two (2) main options:

  1. Patients can obtain a medical authorization form that allows them to home-grow.
  2. They can pursue recognition as a cardholder to buy cannabis and cannabis-infused products from state-licensed dispensaries.

The following list includes some, but not all, of the qualifying conditions for which a healthcare practitioner (licensed in the state of Washington) can provide a medical endorsement:

  • Cancer
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Epilepsy (Other Seizure Disorder)
  • Spasticity Disorders
  • Intractable Pain (Not Alleviated by Conventional Medical Treatments/Medications)
  • Glaucoma
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Hepatitis-C
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Chronic Renal Failure (Requiring Hemodialysis)

The first step is for the patient to meet with a healthcare professional who will provide a medical authorization form which the patient keeps so this step alone allows the patient to grow four (4) plants at home. If the patient would like to access medical cannabis from a dispensary, they must bring the authorization form to a dispensary.

Qualified patients and designated providers (a caregiver, or in the case of a minor patient, a parent, or guardian) follow a similar procedure and also submit their forms to a dispensary. This information is entered into the state medical cannabis database by a certified medical cannabis consultant who works at the dispensary and additional information can be found in the Washington Department of Health (DOH).

After getting the medical authorization from a doctor, the medical cannabis consultant enters the information into the recognized cardholder database, the patient or designated provider may legally purchase during a dispensary visit any combination of the following items:

  • Three (3) ounces (oz) of usable cannabis
  • Forty-Eight (48) ounces (oz) of cannabis-infused product in solid form
  • Two-Hundred Sixteen (216) ounces (oz) of cannabis-infused product in liquid form
  • Twenty-One (21) grams (g) of cannabis concentrate

Recognized medical cannabis cardholders may also grow six (6) plants for personal use and possess up to eight (8) ounces (oz) of usable cannabis produced from their plants. If the patient’s healthcare practitioner determines the patient requires more than exceeds the state limits, they may authorize up to fifteen (15) plants and possession of sixteen (16) ounces (oz) of usable cannabis produced from plants.

If a qualified patient with a valid medical endorsement form chooses not to be entered into the database, they may purchase only the amounts allowed for non-patients who are ages twenty-one (21) and older:

  • One (1) ounce (oz) of usable cannabis
  • Sixteen (16) ounces (oz) of cannabis-infused products
  • Seventy-Two (72) ounces (oz) in liquid form
  • Seven (7) grams (g) of cannabis concentrates

These patients are limited to growing four (4) plants at home and six (6) ounces (oz) of usable cannabis. One disadvantage for those who opt not to be entered into the state database is they have only an affirmative defense to criminal prosecution (click here for more information).

Recreational Cannabis Legalization

2012 Washington Initiative 502 legalized recreational for adults ages twenty-one (21) and older to possess and use cannabis, they can purchase up to:

  • One (1) ounce (oz) of usable cannabis (harvested flower)
  • Sixteen (16) ounces (oz) of cannabis-infused edibles in solid form
  • Seventy-Two (72) ounces (oz) in liquid form
  • Seven (7) grams (g) of cannabis concentrates

Recreational cannabis must be purchased from a cannabis retail store and only medical cannabis patients with an authorization form are allowed to grow, so the only legal way to obtain cannabis for recreational use is through a cannabis retail store.


Medical Cannabis Consultant Certification

bud-tender trainingWashington State Department of Health (DOH) manages the medical cannabis database system and credentialing of medical cannabis consultants who work in state medically endorsed cannabis stores.

All dispensaries and cannabis retail stores must have at least one (1) Medical Cannabis Consultant who’s completed this type of responsible vendor program on staff that’s certified to serve the needs of medical patients.

These twenty (20) hour Washington Medical Cannabis Consultant Certification covers Washington State cannabis laws, qualifying conditions, and their symptoms, positive and negative effects of cannabinoids, products that may be useful for specific conditions, potential contraindications, and the risks and benefits of various routes of administration. It also covers the safe handling of cannabis products, patient privacy rights, and strategies to reduce access by minors.

Learners must pass the exam with a score of seventy percent (70%) to be certified, and certification must be renewed annually. Any future additional training programs must be approved by the Department of Health (DOH). While some states do not have specific requirements on the individual trainers’ credentials, Washington requires that trainers have education in nursing, agriculture, botany, or horticulture, or a license to practice law or health care professional (click here for more information).

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLC) oversees licensing and regulation of cannabis production, processing, and sales. WSLC enforces policies and procedures that impact dispensaries and retail stores, but they are not directly involved in the training of dispensary staff.

Let us know what you think.