WA Law Won’t Immediately Green Light Interstate Pot Sales


With one more senate vote and a governor’s signature, the state of Washington will be prepared to allow interstate marijuana sales. But before anyone gets excited, the bill becoming law will not immediately green light cross border transactions. Interstate sales will remain a no-go until federal law changes.

Washington House members approved SB 5069 in early April 2023. The Senate had passed it earlier, but a new Senate vote is required after a minor error was discovered in the bill’s original version. Everyone expects the Senate to quickly pass the corrected bill and send it to the governor’s desk.

Agreements With Other States

Those hoping the bill will immediately legalize interstate transactions between marijuana producers and processors will be disappointed by reality. Rather than immediately legalizing interstate marijuana sales, the bill only gives the governor the necessary authority to reach compromise agreements with governors of other legal states.

Any such agreements would ostensibly legalize sales between companies in multiple states. But in order for those sales to be of any real value, actual products need to be transported across state lines. Therein lies the sticking point.

As long as marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, transporting it across state lines is also illegal. It matters not if individual states decide to enter into their own interstate sales agreements. Transporting from state to state is still against the law.

An Unusual Step

Washington’s move to legalize interstate marijuana sales is an unusual step to say the least. Most states with legal marijuana understand that they only get away with it because DC has chosen to not enforce the law. They tend to prohibit interstate transport simply because they do not want any additional heat from the feds.

Utah is an example of a state that prohibits crossing its borders while in possession of marijuana. Utahmarijuana.org, an organization that helps Beehive State residents obtain medical cannabis cards, says cross border purchases were allowed during the earliest days of the Utah program. Lawmakers gave a temporary okay until state supplies were able to meet demand. As soon as that was the case, it became illegal to purchase medical cannabis in a neighboring state and bring it into Utah.

The same type of situation exists in most states with legal cannabis. The states simply do not want to take the risk of letting people bring marijuana across their borders. That might be a step too far for federal law enforcement. If Washington decided to start going after interstate transport, they just might try to shut down state-legal marijuana altogether.

The Time Will Come

There is another aspect of Washington state’s decision to pass the interstate transport bill. It could be that lawmakers are anticipating an eventual change in federal law, a change that could mean either rescheduling or full decriminalization. Any such change would be an open invitation to encourage interstate sales.

Suspecting as much, Washington lawmakers might want to position themselves as being at the forefront. They might want their state to be the first one to encourage cross-border transactions.

It seems only a matter of time before federal lawmakers do something. Whether it is rescheduling, decriminalization, or full legalization, it’s hard to believe that senators and representatives can hold out much longer against the seemingly unstoppable tide of pro-marijuana legislation at the state level.

While the country waits to see which way federal lawmakers will go, Washington state has decided to prepare for eventual interstate sales. But passage of the pending bill will not immediately green light such sales. They will remain off limits for the time being.

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