Understanding the Cannabis Laws in DC

Cannabis is one of the world’s most popular recreational drugs. There are also myriad health benefits associated with it, which has led to its widespread legalization. Many American states have already legalized Cannabis, and many more will inevitably follow in the future. Despite Cannabis’ widespread legalization, it is still a contentious issue in some states. One area in the U.S. where the debate around Cannabis is still raging in Washington, D.C. The laws surrounding Cannabis there can be very confusing, particularly for people who aren’t from there.

This article will break down the laws regarding Cannabis in Washington D.C.:


Smoke Shops

While Cannabis is legalized for medical and recreational use in D.C., it is not legalized for sale. This means that people can possess, cultivate, transport, and gift it but can’t sell it. Thankfully, smoke shops in D.C. have managed to find ways around these laws while remaining compliant with the legislation introduced to restrict the sale of Cannabis. Many will gift you Cannabis for a small donation. This means that they have not sold it, but you can still take Cannabis from them and smoke it on the premises.


Legalization of Possession

As we just mentioned, Cannabis is legalized for possession. In November 2014, the Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Initiative [Initiative 71] was voted in. It became effective on February 26, 2015. This law’s introduction meant that people who were at least 21 years old could possess two ounces [or less] of marijuana; transfer one ounce or less of marijuana to another person who is at least 21, provided that no money or payment was made in exchange for it; cultivate Cannabis in their residence of up to six Cannabis plants, with no more than three being mature at one time; possess Cannabis paraphernalia, like bongs, rizlas, pipes, wrappers that are associated with an ounce or less of marijuana; use Cannabis on private property recreationally.


Criminal Violations

However, while Cannabis is technically legalized, one can still be arrested and charged with a criminal offence for not following the rules. One can be arrested for selling any amount of Cannabis to another person; possessing over two ounces of Cannabis; operating a  vehicle while under the influence of Cannabis or any other intoxicant; smoking, drinking, eating, or carrying lit Cannabis or Cannabis equipment filled with Cannabis in a public place, including alleys, sidewalks, parking areas, in vehicles parked on public streets, and in any place where the public are allowed to go.


Age Limitations

As mentioned earlier, there are limits on age regarding Cannabis use and possession. It is still illegal for a person under 21 years to possess or use Cannabis. A person under the age of 21 years old and is found in possession of up to two ounces of marijuana will have their Cannabis seized, but they will not be arrested or ticketed. If the person is 21 but cannot prove their age, the person will be issued a ticket, and the Cannabis will be returned to them if they present their I.D. card to the police station along with the ticket. The ticket will also be taken back. The person will have no less than 24 hours and no more than 21 days to provide their proof of age to the police station. If they do not, the Cannabis will be forfeited, and they will have to pay the fine.


Medical Cannabis

If the District Department of Health has issued a person a license for medical marijuana, they may continue to possess up to two ounces of medical marijuana per month. However, like with recreational Cannabis, the use of medical marijuana in a public place continues to be a criminal offence and can result in their arrest. They may only smoke Cannabis on private property.


Federal Law

While Cannabis has been decriminalized by the District of Columbia, it has not unfortunately been decriminalized by the federal authorities. Because of this, federal authorities are able to prohibit the possession and use of any amount of Cannabis. This means that they can arrest anybody, even if they are on private property, for smoking Cannabis. This has been an issue of contention among Cannabis smokers, who believe it to be unlawful. Possessing any amount of Cannabis in D.C. can result in arrest and conviction if the federal authorities decide to prosecute you. If you are going to smoke Cannabis, then you need to be very careful because of this. Some people openly disregard Cannabis laws and smoke it in public places. While the police may ignore this, it’s likely, the federal authorities won’t. If you smoke at home, they have no reason to come down on you and probably won’t.


The Cannabis laws in D.C. can be very confusing. If you are from D.C. and want to smoke Cannabis, you need to carefully study these laws so that you don’t fall afoul of them. If you do, you could end up being arrested and convicted.



Mark Munroe is the Creator and EIC of ADDICTED. He's ADDICTED to great travel, amazing food, better grooming & probably a whole lot more!

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