A Beginner’s Guide to Marijuana Use in Washington, D.C.

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There’s much to do and see in America’s capital city.

Coincidentally, one of those activities may include smoking some weed.

But before you run out to light up a joint at the Washington Monument, there are definitely some things you should know.

Cannabis in Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C. voters passed the Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Initiative of 2014, or Initiative 71, in November 2014 with nearly 65 percent of D.C. voter approval. On February 26, 2015, it became legal for adults 21 and older in the city to possess small amounts of marijuana in certain circumstances.  

Prior to the passage of Initiative 71, using or possessing marijuana without a doctor’s recommendation was prohibited under Initiative 59, or the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998. Initiative 59 was approved by 69 percent of voters in 1998; however, Congress passed the Barr Amendment that blocked implementation of medical marijuana within D.C. The first medical marijuana sale didn’t actually take place until 2009, when Congress lifted the ban.

Where and How to Buy

Though small amounts of marijuana can be possessed and consumed in Washington, D.C. by adults 21 and older, cannabis sales are currently not allowed. It can be grown at home and shared only.

What Isn’t Allowed

It is illegal for anyone younger than 21 to possess marijuana. But those 21 and older can possess up to 2 ounces,  Or 56.7 grams, of cannabis. It is a criminal offense to possess more than 2 ounces.

An adult 21 and older can also transfer up to 1 ounce, Or 28,35 grams, of cannabis to someone 21 and older as long as no money, goods, or services are exchanged. It is a crime to sell any amount to another person. The penalty for selling marijuana is potentially six months in jail or a $1,000 fine for a first offense.

Marijuana can be used in private homes only – though an apartment landlord can still restrict use. It’s a crime to use it in public or anywhere the public is invited, including bars, coffee shops and public housing. Note that since marijuana is considered illegal on the federal level, federal law enforcement officers can still arrest people in D.C. for possessing any amount of cannabis.

The penalty for using marijuana in public is up to 60 days in jail or a $500 fine.

Those 21 and older can grow up to six plants, of which a maximum of three are mature, at home. In a dwelling with multiple adults 21 and older, a max of 12 plants, of which no more than six can be mature, are allowed.

It is illegal to operate a vehicle or boat while under the influence of cannabis.

First-Time Use

Since there is no purchase of marijuana allowed in the District of Columbia, it may be a little tougher to come by in the capital city. But if you do, don’t get too excited and take too much all at once.

You won’t have the benefit of walking into a retail location and asking a budtender about appropriate dosing, so no matter what form you take, start very small. It is much better to feel nothing at all than too much. Take your time to adjust to the new experience.

About Author

Jessica Peralta is a multimedia journalist with experience covering a wide range of topics, including courts and crime, police and fire, health, education and community news for outlets like the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register.

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