This past Thursday, it officially became legal to possess marijuana in the District of Columbia.
On November 4th, 2014, Initiative 71 was approved by D.C. voters, adding D.C. to the ranks of those that have legalized marijuana possession including Colorado, Washington, Oregon and (as of February 25th) Alaska.
The initiative, which formally amended D.C. Code §48-904.01, went into effect at one minute past midnight on February 26th.
What many people don’t know is how the law works. What can or can’t you do ‘weed-wise?’
First off, you must be 21 years or older to possess marijuana. If you are underage, you can still be prosecuted for possession.
If you are an adult 21 years or older, here’s what you can do:
- You can possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana in the District of Columbia on non-federal property.
This is an important distinction because it is still illegal to possess any marijuana on federal property. 29% of D.C. is federal property. Although some federal property is pretty obvious (i.e., the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the White House, etc.) some is not. For instance, Dupont Circle, Logan Circle and Lincoln Park are all national parks and therefore federal property.
Map detailing federal property in D.C. where marijuana possession remains illegal
For more detail, the Washington Post has an amazing interactive map available here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/local/dc-marijuana-map/
- You can smoke marijuana in a private residence.
With possession of marijuana legalized, there is no prohibition to smoking weed in your home. However, remember that it is still illegal to smoke it in public (more on that below).
- You can gift up to 1 ounce of marijuana to another person.
*as long as they don’t pay you for it. Selling marijuana is still illegal (more on that below too).
- You can have up to 6 marijuana plants in a private residence; only 3 of which may be budding at any given time.
- You can sell or use drug paraphernalia for the use, growing, or processing of marijuana.
Just don’t sell the weed itself.
What you cannot do:
- You cannot smoke weed in public – anywhere.
Although you can possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana in public, you better not light up – you can still be arrested for smoking pot in public. That includes in restaurants or even sitting in your parked car on a public street. Just wait until you get home.
- You cannot drive under the influence of marijuana.
Just as is the case with alcohol, you cannot drive under the influence of marijuana. Under D.C. law, simply having THC in your system when you’re driving does not necessarily mean that you are ‘under the influence’ of marijuana. But if you fail the various field sobriety tests, you may be arrested for driving while impaired.
3. You cannot sell weed – anywhere.
Selling is still illegal, whether done privately between two people or through some sort of Amsterdam-esque coffee shop. As stated above, however, you can lawfully give up to 1 ounce to another person so long as they do not pay you for the marijuana.
- You cannot possess more than 2 ounces of weed.
This might seem obvious but you can only possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana in public. Anything more is still illegal.
- You cannot possess any weed on federal property.
29% of the District is on federal property. Before you decide to take your 2 ounces for a walk around the city, check your route. Make sure you’re not walking through a traffic circle or a national park.
- You cannot possess weed in public housing.
You may not possess or smoke marijuana in your home if you live in public housing. This is because most public housing is federally-subsidized meaning that the prohibition against possession of marijuana on federal property applies to public housing.
More changes to come
Despite the passing of this law, Republican members of the House Oversight Government Operations Subcommittee led by Utah representative Jason Chaffetz appear staunchly opposed to the measure and have even threatened the possibility of prison for D.C. officials for implementing the law. While they have not yet outlined what, if any, legal action they might take against the District and D.C. public officials, they have stated that the Mayor was “in knowing and willful violation of the law” by implementing the legalization legislation last Thursday. D.C. Metro police, however, answer to city officials, not Representative Chaffetz, who have said that marijuana is legal in the District.
Additionally, even if the District does have its way, there may be more marijuana-related legislation to come. Mayor Bowser has already suggested a need for legislation to block the formation of a “gray market” for pot, with features such as the organization of “cannabis clubs” whose membership fees could pay for access to the drug.
For more information about the new marijuana laws, here’s a link to the language of Initiative 71: http://dcmj.org/ballot-initiative/