As even the most THC-riddled history buffs will recall, voters made medical marijuana legal for properly documented Washington State patients in 1998 (with the legislature making helpful amendments to the law in 2007 and 2010). Then, in 2012, Washington State voters approved Initiative 502, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana for all adults over the age of 21, regardless of one's medical situation and/or ability to convince a health-care provider that he or she has a qualifying medical condition (glaucoma, constant pain, jumpy stomach, etc.).
So here we are, in a golden age of plentiful medical marijuana dispensaries and legal marijuana use—two great tastes that go great together, right?
Despite the (understandable) wishful thinking of recreational pot users, medical marijuana dispensaries remain accessible only to documented patients—a fact imparted by dispensary receptionists to crestfallen visitors dozens of times daily.
As an employee at the Pioneer Square collective the Source tells me, immediately after the November passage of I-502, "One out of every 10 people who came through the door" was a casual pot user hoping the new law had instantly turned medical marijuana dispensaries into public pot markets. Crushing their dreams became a full-time job. "Everyone here has the spiel down pat," says my dispensary clerk of the autopilot speech delivered to undocumented visitors, succinctly detailing the limits of I-502 and the continuing distinctions between medical marijuana and nonmedical marijuana.
The post-I-502 rush has abated a bit since last fall, but a steady stream of hopeful stoners continues to trickle into dispensaries, with spurned purchasers sometimes seen loitering around entrances with optimistic smiles. "Hey, man, can you maybe help me out?" asked one frat boy–looking straggler on the street outside the Source. "Sorry, man," goes my typical response. Even though medical marijuana is legal, and recreational marijuana is legal, illicitly selling medical marijuana to a recreational pot user remains a felony. The public pot market of your dreams will soon enough be a reality, loitering frat boy. But until then, buy your pot like a normal person, from that guy standing around on the Ave.