Washington voters in 1998 passed Initiative 692 to allow patients with certain terminal or debilitating diseases to possess and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. But ensuring police adopt enforcement policies that protect citizen rights under the state's Medical Use of Marijuana Act has been another matter. The new law allows patients to have up to a 60-day supply for personal medical use and to designate a caregiver to grow marijuana for them. There has been confusion about the law because it does not specify a set amount of marijuana for patients, and marijuana possession remains prohibited under federal law. Some qualified patients have been arrested for possession since the law’s enactment.
After months of negotiations with the ACLU, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) in 2000 issued written instructions for enforcing the Washington Medical Marijuana Act. Its guidelines advise police to document marijuana "grows" by someone claiming to be a qualified patient through photos, samples, and plant size measurements instead of confiscating plants or growing equipment. To clarify the supply question, the SPD specifies that an individual patient or caregiver may possess up to nine plants in various stages of maturation.