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District of Columbia Marijuana Laws

In November 2014, District voters approved the Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Initiative (commonly known as Initiative 71). The new D.C. marijuana law became effective in February 2015. The District joined Alaska, Colorado and Washington state in making the drug legal.

What is Legal in D.C.?

It is legal for a person who is at least 21 years old to:

  • Possess two (2) ounces or less of marijuana;
  • Transfer one (1) ounce or less of marijuana to another person who is at least 21 years old, so long as there is no payment made or any other type of exchange of goods or services;
  • Cultivate within their residence up to six (6) marijuana plants, no more than three (3) of which are mature;
  • Possess marijuana-related drug paraphernalia – such as bongs, cigarette rolling papers, and cigar wrappers – that is associated with one ounce or less of marijuana; or
  • Use marijuana on private property.

What is Still Illegal Under the New Law?

The penalty for an individual arrested for smoking or consuming marijuana in public can be up to 60 days in jail or a $500 fine. Restaurant and business owners that allow patrons to use marijuana could lose their business license and certificate of occupancy. The penalty for possession of more than two (2) ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense and can lead to up to six (6) months in jail and/ or a $1,000 fine.

Basically, a person can still be arrested for:

  • Selling any amount of marijuana to another person;
  • Possessing more than two (2) ounces of marijuana;
  • Operating a vehicle or boat under the influence of marijuana ; or
  • Smoking, eating, or drinking marijuana – or holding or carrying a lighted roll of paper or other lighted smoking equipment filled with marijuana – in any public space, such as on any street, sidewalk, alley, park, or parking area;
    In a vehicle on any street, alley, park, or parking area; or any place to which the public is invited.

Federal Law and Marijuana in D.C

Although D.C. has decriminalized possession of up to two (2) ounces of marijuana for persons over the age of 21, federal law continues to prohibit the possession or use of any amount of marijuana.

As a result, federal law enforcement officers may arrest anyone in the District for possession or use of any amount of marijuana as a violation of federal law. For example, the U.S. Park Police can arrest a person for possessing or using any marijuana on the National Mall, Rock Creek Park, or any other National Park Service land.

Details about D.C.'s marijuana laws are listed and referenced in the table below. For more information, see Medical Marijuana Laws by State and FindLaw's Drug Charges section.

Code Section 48-901.02 et seq.; 48-904.01 et seq.
Possession Up to two (2) ounces legal. See above for more details.
Sale Crime with penalty of five (5) yrs. and/or $50,000; Subsequent offense: double penalties; Within drug-free zone or sale to minor: up to twice the punishment
Trafficking N/A

Note: D.C. marijuana laws are constantly changing. Contact a D.C. criminal defense attorney, or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law:

D.C. Marijuana Laws: Related Resources

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