Marijuana legal for adults to possess, use; Congress prevents D.C. Council from regulating it


Last update: August 25, 2015


On November 4, 2014, D.C. voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 71, which legalized the limited possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults who are 21 or older. It survived Congressional review and became law on February 26, 2015. This new law does not allow sales, and it does not change federal law, and a large portion of the District is federal land. Please see our summary for more details.

While there is much cause for celebration, there is still work to be done. Congress used an appropriations rider to prevent the D.C. Council from legalizing and regulating marijuana sales to adult consumers. Our federal team — along with our allies — is working diligently to remove that prohibition. Once they succeed, the council appears to be ready to act.

Councilmember David Grosso has introduced legislation to create the regulatory framework necessary for a responsible marijuana industry. The Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2015 — B21-23 ­— would allow the city to register and regulate marijuana cultivators, product manufacturers, retail stores, and testing labs and to impose taxes on the sale of marijuana to adults 21 and older.Please let your councilmembers know you want the District to treat marijuana like alcohol.


Medical marijuana program taking root


The District’s medical marijuana program has gone through quite a bit of compassionate change as of late. Last fall, the program was amended to allow physicians to recommend medical marijuana for any condition they think will benefit from its use. Since then, hundreds of additional patients from around the city have been granted legal and safe access to medical marijuana. Additionally, council and the Department of Health continue to work collaboratively with advocates and providers to ensure that a more consistent and varied supply of medical marijuana products are available to patients in need.

If you have a debilitating condition and would like to know more about medical marijuana in the District, talk to your doctor and visit the District Department of Health’s medical marijuana program website. You can also contact any of the five dispensaries operating in D.C.: Metropolitan Wellness Center at Eastern Market, Capital City Care on North Capitol Street, and Takoma Wellness Center in Takoma Park, Herbal Alternatives on Rhode Island Avenue NW, and National Holistic Healing Center in DuPont Circle.

Individuals under 21


On July 17, 2014, legislation decriminalizing marijuana took effect. While Initiative 71 removed penalties for marijuana use and possession for those 21 and older, it left decriminalization in place for individuals under 21. Since taking passage, possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by an individual under 21 has been punishable by civil fine of $25. In addition, the simple smell of marijuana no longer gives a police officer grounds to conduct a search of an individual. For more information on the measure, please see our overview of the ordinance.

It is important to note that, like Initiative 71, this is only a change in District law, not federal law. Marijuana possession on federal lands, including the National Mall, is still a criminal offense and violators may be arrested and prosecuted.

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