Understanding the District’s Marijuana Laws


Q. When will Initiative 71 become law?
A. 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, February 26, 2015.

From the Mayor’s office:

“Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser, Police Chief Cathy Lanier and other administration officials outlined the District’s plan to ensure the safe, responsible administration of Initiative 71.

“In November, residents of the District of Columbia voted to legalize small amounts of marijuana by adults for personal, in-home use in the District,” said Mayor Bowser. “We will uphold the letter and the spirit of the initiative that was passed last year, and we will establish the Initiative 71 Task Force to coordinate our enforcement, awareness and engagement efforts and address policy questions as they arise.”

Implementation of Initiative 71 represents an incremental change from the District’s law which decriminalized marijuana. The Bowser Administration has laid out clear expectations for what is lawful and what remains illegal.

Under Initiative 71, individuals 21 years of age or older will be able to lawfully:

· Possess two ounces or less of marijuana;

· Use marijuana on private property;

· Transfer one ounce or less of marijuana to another person, as long as:

1. no money, goods or services are exchanged; and

2. the recipient is 21 years of age or older; and

· Cultivate within his or her primary residence up to six marijuana plants, no more than three of which are mature.

Under Initiative 71, it will remain a crime for anyone to:

· Possess more than two ounces of marijuana;

· Smoke or otherwise consume marijuana on public space or anywhere to which the public is invited; including restaurants, bars, and coffee shops;

· Sell any amount of marijuana to another person; or

· Operate a vehicle or boat under the influence of marijuana.

The Bowser Administration will administer the will of the people by implementing the law in a safe, fair and transparent manner. Sale of marijuana, use in public space, impaired driving, and possession by anyone under the age of 21 will remain illegal. While use by adults will be legal in these limited circumstances, marijuana is a controlled substance that should be used safely and responsibly to protect the public health.

The Administration has created the Initiative 71 Task Force led by Police Chief Cathy Lanier (MPD) and Director LaQuandra Nesbitt of the Department of Health (DOH) to lead implementation and public information efforts.

In the coming days, Mayor Bowser will put forward emergency legislation to clarify that the law does not allow private clubs to provide marijuana to their patrons.

Click HERE for a Fact Sheet on Marijuana in DC

Click HERE for a Frequently Asked Questions Document on Marijuana in DC”

88 Comment

  • That’s nice that they gave such a clear breakdown. Could we get a similar chart for, say, parking restrictions??

  • So, let’s say you want to partake in marijuana consumption but live in a building where smoking is not allowed. The Mayor has now introduced legislation to block the smoking of pot in private clubs. What are the options for such a person to legally consume the marijuana they legally posses?

    • Make friends with someone who lives in a house?

    • To be 100% safe, the person would be able to cook with cannabis.

      Vaporizing it would be a grey area.

      Allegedly smoking restrictions are because of damage from cigarette smoke, which we all know makes things stinky and yellows walls. Cannabis smoke doesn’t linger.

      • Cannabis smoke doesn’t linger? Are you serious?
        No smoking in buildings means no smoking. Society is already way behind in recognizing that a smoker’s right to smoke should never interfere with another person’s right to have clean, smoke-free air in their living space. Maryjane shouldn’t be granted an exception. You lose some rights when you live in multi-unit housing. Them’s the breaks. Don’t like it- buy a single-family house.

        • I smoke weed every day in my house and in every hotel room i’ve been in for the last 5 or 6 years. The smoke does not linger for more than an hr and i’ve never had a complaint from anyone i’ve lived next to.

          • First of all, smokers are notoriously unable to smell the lingering smoke left from their habit, because their sense of smell is damaged/distorted. So dude, chances are, you don’t even realize how bad it is. In college, I lived in an apartment building where some middle-aged unemployed people smoked pot quite a bit. The lingering, ever-present stale smell of pot was always there- even when they were gone, and it was disgusting. No one in their right mind- except an actual pot smoker- wants to live like that.

          • Oh, and I’ve been learning for years now- people don’t complain to you because people don’t like confrontations. It seems like I’m the only one on my floor who will ask people not to walk in heels late at night because the noise is SUPER annoying. My neighbors who are even more directly under that noise say nothing because no one wants to complain or start something with a neighbor. They’ll complain to me about hating the noise, but they won’t go up there themselves. I guess I’m one of the rare ones who doesn’t like putting up with crap, so I’d be at your door.

          • Someone nearby me in my condo building smokes a lot of weed. The hallway stinks. But I’ve never complained about it.
            The previous owner of my unit installed devices to prevent smells from sneaking in around the doorframe, so it doesn’t come into my unit. But the hallway is gross.

          • ^^Thomas is 100% correct

          • ^jumpingjack is 100% correct.

      • Oh, it definitely lingers. We have someone who smokes below us (despite our building being non-smoking!) and it leaks into our bathroom and my 5yo son’s room. It gets so bad that our eyes burn and it gives us headaches. Sometimes it fills the whole apartment if that particular person is home for multiple days (we’re pretty sure its the college kid of the older couple below us). It may not linger for days or weeks, but it sticks around for several hours at least, which is unacceptable.

        I think pot should be legal, but that doesn’t mean I want in my home for my kid to breathe it in (or me, esp since I do get drug tested at work AND I’m pregnant). We’ve tried everything to prevent the smoke from leaking in and we’ve tried to talk with the residents below us, but they won’t answer the door or reply to notes. We’ve had building management out, spoken to the other residents in our building, even called the cops. It doesn’t matter.

        • All valid arguments against neighbor’s smoke permeating your space, except this one: “or me, esp since I do get drug tested at work”. This is needless fear mongering: your drug test won’t be affected one bit by second hand weed smoke.

          • So “hotboxing” isn’t a thing?

            I don’t smoke so I don’t know, but isn’t the whole point of “hotboxing” essentially getting high from secondhand smoke? If that’s the case, all of B’s concerns seem valid to me.

          • Nic, it’s a “thing” as much as 420 is a thing – stoner nonsense. I guess you could theoretically cover your head with a plastic bag and fill said bag with dense weed smoke – that’d get you high assuming you don’t first suffocate, but in reality getting high off second hand smoke is extraordinarily rare.

      • Vapeing is the way forward! Vapeing is not smoking, smoking is combustion, vaping is heating something to a point that is not combustion. It is really simple.

        If your building does not allow smoking buy a vape, like a pax ploom. they can do nothing. n.o.t.h.i.n.g. it does not smell (that much). your fed employee neighbors can get their panties in a twist and complain as much as they like.

        My neighbors complained about my vaping and i told them: go buy a single family home.

        building is powerless.

      • vaping is not a grey area dude.

    • I haven’t read the actual legislation, but the press release says that the Mayor is only barring private clubs from providing MJ to customers — I would assume that patrons could still bring their own stash to a private club that allowed it.

    • First, it would be legal to spoke pot in your home, just against the building rules. Big difference. But, to answer your question, you have exactly the same options as a cigarette smoker who wants to smoke at home – move to a place where it is permitted.

    • Cannabis need not be smoked. There are many ways to ingest it.

      It can be processed into butter or oil which can be used in cooking and baking.

      It can be made into an alcoholic tincture which can be administered by drops in the mouth.

      It can also be made into beverages.

  • Wait, so does this mean it is through the sh*tty Congress review? Where can I purchase my plants?

    • This goes into effect at 12am 2/26. You can buy seeds online.

      • It would be more appropriate it it went into effect at 4:20.

        • Comments like this make it hard for serious supporters of marijuana to get their points across. It doesn’t help either when the advocates who go in front of camera pander to the “Cheech and Chong” image…the image being presented should be everyday people across walks of life for the city, not crappy dorm-room jokes like “let’s enact a law at 4:20”

  • In regard to the rule for transfer, what is the definition of payment? Does payment refer strictly to money, or can one trade marijuana for other goods or services legally?

    • From the FAQ: “Up to one ounce of marijuana can be shared so long as there is no exchange of money, good or services”

  • What about DC’s 99.9999% community? Fed workers?

    • I Dont Get It

      Exaggerate much?

    • Must be your circle. Most the people I know here are not fed workers. But if you are one, then I would assume your agency’s rules still apply.

    • What are you asking?

      • Would fed/district workers lose their jobs for pos test results.

        • Did the Federal laws change? No? Then yea, you’d still presumably lose your job. Though depending on your agency, chances are high nobody ever gets tested (which you presumably already know), so carry on as if nothing changed.

        • I really hope you aren’t a civil servant.

          • Because smoking a moderate amount of weed diminishes a civil servant’s ability to do their job? Maybe we should force civil servants to get 8 hrs of sleep to make sure they are fully functional at work as well?

          • Personally, I think just like a lot of alcohol use, anything that puts someone in a public trust position in a compromising situation (owing money, for example), isn’t wise.

          • But most anyone over the age of 21 can legally drink to their heart’s content, right? Civil servants included.

          • Sure, but at least in my job, you can get in trouble. Excess of anything, or anything that can cause you to to lose control, when you’re in a national security position, isn’t wise. And I’ve seen people lose their TS and jobs.

          • Also, Anon @ 12:35, I took issue with the poster’s inability to grasp the basic foundations and differences between federal and local laws.

          • @Anon 1:11: Agreed, I misunderstood your point above. You’d hope a civil servant understands the difference between local and federal laws.
            @jindc: Yup, over-doing anything is a bad idea in general. You’d hope that nobody is drinking on the job just as you’d hope that nobody is smoking on the job either.

          • @1:52 PM

            It’s not even Federal law so much as it is terms of employment, and the employer happens to be the federal government.

    • Sucks to be you, g-man.

    • What makes you think DC gov is responsible for the Feds?

    • Sucks to be you, g-man.

      By the way, I think it’s only something like 27% of DC are feds.

      • I believe the actual figure is around 20% of employees in the District work directly for the Fed, and a total of 47% work for the Fed and related private companies and contractors.

    • Probably commuting back and forth to Virginia

  • This chart should have added to keep it off the large swaths of federal property in the District. I imagine it will be less than a week before Park Police arrest someone on The Mall for holding despite their protestations that it’s legal in D.C.

  • Question for folks who know Public Housing law better than I: Are Section 8/voucher properties considered to be Public Housing? My initial reaction was that they are not, but after a little digging online, it seems gray to me…

    • They’re not the same thing legally, but some of the behavior that can get you evicted from public housing but not from a private apartment CAN get your voucher pulled by DCHA — which for many people is tantamount to an eviction and in some ways worse. So just be careful.

    • From the WaPo article: “Bowser said today that smoking in public housing units would remain illegal, though D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said her officers would not be arresting people in public housing for smoking.”

      • The key phrase there is “her officers.” DCHA has its own police force that doesn’t answer to Lanier or Bowser.

  • These new rules/interpretation are just dumb. The answer to How do I get marijuana is to grow it or convince someone to give it to you for free? I mean c’mon, the new law was created to stop people from breaking the law, but now they are essentially making it impossible to comply legally. Growing is hard without the proper equipment and few are just going to let you raid their stash for free. This is hardly an improvement.

    • You can thank Congress for that, not the DC Government. This seems like the broadest way that DC can implement the law without violating Congress’s block.

    • Yeah, that’s what i don’t get. So I can have it, but I can’t buy it, or have someone sell it to me. So the only two ways to get it are to grow it or have someone give it to me for free. Is this pretty much the law in a nutshell? Because, as you state, that’s dumb.

      • The plan was for the DC Council to pass laws clearing all of this up (particularly legalizing sales), but Congress has blocked the Council from doing so. Leading to the murky mess we’re in.

        • O JJ, trust me, I blame Andy Harris and his elephant buddies in Congress – but Bowser needs to be more creative in allowing people access to a now legal product (ie membership clubs, Dallas buyers club style organizations, etc.) No need to bar creative access which would be “allowed” by congress, as we all agree the current rules do not allow reasonable access.

    • Just looked into this further and learned that the medical marijuana law was very quietly loosened up last summer – you can now get a prescription for any condition, not just a short list of serious conditions. So, seems like the end game is going to be that pot smokers get prescriptions like they do in California and other states, and the legalization bill just makes it that much clearer that any adult with weed isn’t breaking the law. Seems fairly reasonable.

      No doubt Bowser doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about promising not to make DC more like Amsterdam (if only!) but the law there isn’t full legalization either, and the city government can and does crack down on coffee shops that cause problems. It’s actually a fairly sensible approach – just let things operate unless they cause serious complaints or problems, but don’t go around actively trying to find and shut down operators that are keeping things unobtrusive. Much better than our current model of prohibition.

  • Dave’s not here, man!

  • used to live where a number of people smoked pot in their apartments. Don’t let anyone fool you that it doesn’t “stink like tobacco”. They all smell in their own way, and if you’re not a smoker, it’s gross to smell. That said, my concern is always the fact that if you have a job that requires drug testing, and you live where people smoke pot, what are your protections? I don’t know much about whether being near it can cause you to pop your piss test….

    I don’t care if people consume pot, but the protections for those of us who don’t are merky. Also, why would some brag about how much pot they smoke? To quote Mindy Lahiri, “Marijuana is the worst. It makes you fat and lazy. Is that what you think America’s problem is? There’s not enough fat and lazy people. At least cocaine has an industrious spirit. Oh, I want to sell stocks on Wall Street faster! Oh, I need to dance more!”

    • Catching faint whiffs of second hand smoke won’t make a difference for your drug test – don’t fret.

    • You will not have a positive result on a piss test unless you’ve smoked it yourself. No amount of second-hand exposure can put enough THC in your blood to make you fail a test.

      • well, I moved…but that’s good to know. Not fretting, because there’s no money here for drug tests anymore. Which is super smart.

        • even if you were by chance to “pop hot” on a UA, you can protest it by saying it could’ve been a “false postive” result.

    • fat and lazy? tell that to all the stoner athletes

  • The stigma attached to responsible marijuana use is funny. I mean if someone has a beer no one says “hey frat guy! You tryin’ to get wasted?! Woooo!”

    Just a general comment.

  • here’s a question i haven’t yet seen addressed – will it be legal to carry marijuana on the Metro in DC? or, since WMATA has multiple jurisdictions, is there a proprietary law that is different from the laws of the District?

    • Good question. I would guess it depends on what jurisdiction popped you for the offense (presumably you’re not getting popped for possession alone and that there was an extenuating circumstance that resulted in you being searched).

    • When decriminalization took effect, WMATA said they would be in agreement with MPD about enforcing (ie not enforcing) cannabis possession laws on Metro. So, presumably, you can have up to 2 ounces on you on a train as long as it stays in DC.

  • I haven’t read the FAQs yet so forgive me but I am curious to know if one will be able to smoke in your yards (gated) or on their balcony balcony? These are not public places and the public is clearly not invited (especially if you have a gate up or you are not on floor level but you can be seen by the public…

    • Just read the FAQ sheet and it didn’t clarify anything. The closest it came to answering my question still didn’t directly answer my question. That said, I would venture to guess the answer would be NO but some clarification is needed because my thought your yard or balcony is not public property and people can be arrested for trespassing if they are on your property and won’t leave, correct?

      Q. Is it legal to smoke marijuana on a restaurant’s patio or at a rooftop bar?
      A. No; whether inside or outside, marijuana cannot be smoked in any public place, including restaurants or bars.

    • I have a similar question. So there’s a group of young men who cluster in our neighbor’s backyard day and night smoking pot. The smoke blows into our backyards and our neighbors’ yards with kids trying to play back there. It comes into my daughter’s open window in the summer, and also gets sucked in through her window A/C unit. We smell it in our house. This is what’s been happening while it was illegal. I can only assume it’s not going to decrease with the new laws…. Do we have any recourse?

      • Anonomnom

        I was wondering something similar, but from the other side of this situation. No, not planning on having huge groups of people smoke on my back patio and piss off my neighbors. But I also do live a few houses away from a police chief. If I went outside to smoke for 5 minutes and it drifts into a neighbors yard, my take is it would be legal because I was on private property, not open to the public.

        That being said, @anonymous from 3:05, that sounds obnoxious. Sorry you have to put up with that :/

    • Colorado legislated a “front porch” rule that said it’s legal to use cannabis on your front porch, on your roof deck, in your non-fenced backyard, etc. If it’s your private property, you’re allowed to possess/consume cannabis.

  • 2/26 is the new 4/20 🙂

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