The Legal Status of Cannabis in Washington D.C.

The Legal Status of Cannabis in Washington D.C.

While cannabis remains illegal on a federal basis in the US, more and more states are legalizing it, whether for medical purposes, recreational purposes, or both. As of this writing, cannabis is legal in 11 states for adults, and legal for medical use in a total of 33 states, and that includes Washington DC. 

Washington DC makes the list of places where cannabis is legal in the country thanks to Initiative 71, which was passed in DC in 2015. This initiative legalized the recreational use of cannabis in Washington DC. 

Adults over the age of 21 are legally permitted to possess up to two ounces of cannabis. But the way in which adults are able to obtain their cannabis products is a quite different than the traditional buy-and-sell transaction.

No Traditional Sales of Cannabis Permitted in Washington DC

Instead of buying cannabis – which is still illegal in DC – those who looking to gain access to it must obtain it as somewhat of a “gift.” Cannabis can be exchanged between two adults, as long as there is no exchange of money along with it. 

Cannabis vendors have gotten creative with how they offer cannabis products to consumers while still making a profit at the same time by offering “complementary” cannabis as a gift with the purchase of another product, such as raffle tickets, stickers, t-shirts, and other goods. 

It’s certainly a unique way to obtain cannabis legally, but it’s not the only way. Adults over the age of majority are also permitted to grow their own cannabis on their own private property. Residents can grow up to six plants, with only three mature plants at a time. 

Hurdles to the Medical Cannabis Market in Washington DC

Medical cannabis has been legal in DC since 1998, but there have been many efforts in Congress to hinder the opening of dispensaries. As such, availability of medical cannabis to the public didn’t occur until 2011. 

Further, obtaining a legal medical card to buy legal medical cannabis can also be somewhat of a challenge. Applicants are required to provide two pieces of DC identification when completing an application, along with a recommendation from a licensed medical cannabis doctor. There is also a 30-day waiting period for the Department of Health to process these applications, as well as a $100 fee. So, what exactly constitutes a criminal violation?

While possession within legal limits is permitted in Washington DC, it’s not permitted on federal land, which makes up about 20% of the area in DC. It should also be noted that the use of cannabis is only permitted on private property, and not in public places. And as is the case with alcohol, people cannot operate a vehicle or boat while under the influence of cannabis.

As already noted, only people aged 21 years of age or older are allowed to be in possession of cannabis. Further, no more than two ounces of cannabis can be in possession at any one time. The laws also restrict monthly purchasing limits to four ounces of cannabis within a 30-day period.

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