Drug offenses in Washington State are referred to as VUCSA: Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substance Act. The Uniform Controlled Substance Act is outlined in Chapter 69.50 RCW. In Washington State, the term “controlled substance” is applied to all illegal drugs.

Marijuana Offenses:

Marijuana has indeed been legalized in Washington State, but it is important to be cognizant of the limits.

*It is not legal:

  • For anyone under 21 years old to possess any quantity of marijuana
  • To grow marijuana
  • To smoke or display marijuana in public
  • To sell marijuana
  • For people 21 and over to possess greater than one ounce

*Possession: If you are caught with more than one ounce but less than 40 grams of marijuana, you could face Misdemeanor charges with penalties of up to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000. (RCW 69.50.4014).

  • For people under age 21 convicted of marijuana possession (under 40 grams), there is an additional penalty of a 1-year driver’s license revocation.
  • If you are caught with more than 40 grams of marijuana, you could face Class C Felony charges
  • Possession with intent to distribute marijuana carries more serious penalties, and you can be charged with intent to distribute or sell even with a small quantity.

Felony VUCSA Crimes:

Most VUCSA crimes in Washington State are felonies, ranging from Class C felonies to Class A felonies. There are a number of factors that may influence the severity of the charges. Some of these factors may include:

  • Type of controlled substance found
  • Quantity of controlled substance found
  • Whether there was intent to sell
  • Criminal history of the accused
  • Age of the accused (adult vs juvenile)

*Possession:  If you are charged with possession of any drug other than marijuana, you will be charged with a Class C Felony, regardless of the quantity. This may include cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, methamphetamines, illegal prescription drugs, or any other drug that is considered to be illegal.


Felony convictions in Washington State carry the following maximum sentences:

  • Class C Felony: 5 years in jail; $10,000 fine
  • Class B Felony: 10 years in jail; $20,000 fine
  • Class A Felony: Life in prison; $50,000 fine

Penalty enhancements may occur with the following circumstances:

  • If firearms were present
  • In the presence of a child
  • If the crime occurred in a protected zone (e.g. school zone)
  • If the crime occurred while in a correctional facility
  • Charges involving drug sales to a minor

Alternatives to Incarceration:

In Washington State, there are several alternatives to incarceration that the courts may consider. These programs generally involve substance abuse treatment/rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration. It is imperative that you work with an experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can thoroughly explore your options and fight for your best interests.

  • Probation or Diversion
  • Drug Courts
  • DOSA (Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative)
  • First Time Offender Waiver

Legal Representation:

If you are facing VUCSA or other drug related charges, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney to properly represent you and advocate for the best possible outcome in your case. These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.