DC Cannabis 101: All the Basics You Need to Know

You can possess cannabis in DC but you can neither buy nor sell it. However, that could change soon. It depends on the passage of the Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2021 proposed by Mayor Muriel Bowser.

If the proposed legislation sails through, adult-use marijuana sales could be legalized and available to DC residents aged 21 years and above. The act would stipulate all marijuana be tested by a third-party laboratory facility for purity and potency. We may also see certain cannabis convictions automatically expunged.

However, we’re miles away from that reality. So, until then, what you can do is to keep yourself abreast of the current cannabis laws in DC. These laws can be somewhat confusing, according to most people. That’s why you should read the guide below before you think of lighting up that blunt in the country’s capital.

Medical Cannabis Use in DC

In 1998, the resident voters in Washington DC backed a proposal to decriminalize the use of marijuana for medical reasons. The initiative was famously known as Initiative 59.  

Yes, the initiative received massive support going by the majority vote. However, it faced myriad delays in terms of its implementation. For example, Congress adopted a Barr Amendment, which sought to prohibit DC from funding the Initiative 59 program.

However, the Barr amendment was effectively annulled in 2009. Thus, medical cannabis was officially legalized in January 2011. Medical dispensaries began popping up and grow rooms were allowed.

A medical marijuana card is often issued to medically authorized users by the District Department of Health. This allows you to possess not more than 2 ounces of medicinal cannabis per month.

However, you can only use medical marijuana in private spaces. Ingesting or smoking in public space constitutes a criminal offense and may lead to arrest.

Recreational Cannabis in DC

In 2014, Washington DC voters approved an initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The initiative sought to legalize the possession of a certain amount of cannabis for personal use. The proposal was famously called Initiative 71.

About 68.87% of voters voted in favor of Initiative 71 in November 2014. The new regulation came into full effect in February 2015.

According to Initiative 71, it’s now legal for a DC resident who is 21 years and above to:

  • Possess a maximum of two ounces of cannabis
  • Share up to one ounce of cannabis with another person aged 21 years and above provided there’s no exchange of payment
  • Farm up to six cannabis plants within their residence. Only three of the plants should be at the flowering stage (mature).
  • Possess cannabis-related accessories like bongs, rolling papers
  • Light up cannabis in your private residence

What Amounts to a Cannabis Criminal Offense?

A resident can still be apprehended for:

  • Sale of cannabis to another individual
  • Possession of cannabis beyond the maximum of 2 ounces
  • Driving a car or boat while under cannabis intoxication
  • Using cannabis in any public space. This can include an alley, sidewalk, parking lot, or street

Prohibition of Cannabis Possession by Persons Below 21 Years Old

Initiative 71 did not amend the existing law on the prohibition of cannabis possession for persons below 21 years of age. This means it’s still decriminalized.

Persons below 21 years can face arrests when caught with more than 2 ounces of cannabis. However, if the amount of marijuana doesn’t exceed 2 ounces, the person will not be apprehended or issued a ticket. Instead, the arresting officer will confiscate the weed.

If you claim to be 21 years but cannot prove your age, the arresting officer will issue you a warning ticket. The confiscated cannabis will only be returned to you once you hand over the warning ticket at the police station where the arrest occurred, plus proof of age.

How to Find Cannabis in DC

As previously stated, you cannot buy or sell cannabis in Washington DC. So how can you get weed if buying it is out of the equation? Well, you have a couple of options, as outlined below.

Medical Card

The first option is the medical route. This means you apply for a marijuana medical card from the District Department of Health. The card allows you to shop at the various medical cannabis dispensaries in DC. Notable examples include the National Holistic Healing Center, Capital City Care, and the Metropolitan Wellness Center.

A friend

The law allows sharing of marijuana between friends. However, there’s a catch. The amount of cannabis shared should not exceed 1 ounce. Plus, the recipient should not give out money as payment for the amount of cannabis he or she has received.

Delivery Services

DC has several delivery services that give cannabis as a gift, provided you buy something else. These may include accessories like ashtrays and flower grinders or unrelated merchandise like art pieces and t-shirts. Just like other shipping services, you’ll have your product plus the cannabis gift at your front door in the shortest time possible.

Joint Delivery and HighSpeed are two examples of delivery services in DC. They allow DC residents to buy marked-up products like trippy posters or tie-dyed t-shirts and pick an accompanying cannabis strain as a gift. Another gifting vendor is District Derp. The company sells paintings and provides marijuana edibles as gifts.

DC Weed Events

Weed events are common in the cannabis DC scene. They work pretty much like delivery services. Vendors will have their non-cannabis merchandise on sale, and buyers are given a ‘free gift’ of marijuana alongside every product purchase.

The Bottom Line

DC has legalized the medical and recreational use of cannabis. However, it comes with several restrictions for residents over 21 years. You can’t possess more than 2 ounces of cannabis, and you can’t smoke in public spaces.

Selling or buying cannabis is prohibited in DC. Thus, businesses have exploited the legal gray area surrounding the drug by creating a gifting economy. Customers are gifted cannabis in exchange for buying other products from the business vendors. This is one of the easiest ways you can get cannabis in DC.

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