If you’re like most marijuana lovers who live in or are visiting the nation’s capital, you want to know: is weed legal in DC?
Recreation and medical marijuana legislation are constantly changing, and DC weed laws are no different.
Even after the passage of Initiative 71 in 2015, there is still a lot of confusion about what is legal and what isn’t.
In this guide, we’ll share everything you need to know about Washington DC weed laws, including where and how to get it.
DC Weed Laws - Medical and Recreational
There are two kinds of DC weed laws: medical and recreational.
Medical marijuana has been legal in DC for more than a decade, with legislation that came into effect on January 1, 2011.
But residents who want a medical marijuana (MMJ) card must jump through many hoops with the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. They need to submit an application with a $100 annual payment.
The rules and laws have been changing slowly to allow for more accessibility. For example, Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) offered “Turnaround Thursday” in 2021 to immediately give people MMJ cards during a walk-in visit.
Recreational cannabis is also legal, but the process for purchase is tricky. You can’t just walk into a store and ask to buy weed in DC. Instead, you need to understand the legal method and find a trusted dispensary that follows the laws, like Peace in the Air.
This guide will walk you through the process step-by-step. So, you can get your daily toke or edible, whether you’re a DC resident or a visitor.
Is Recreational Weed Legal in Washington DC?
The short answer is yes! Recreational weed is legal for people who are at least 21 years old.
You are allowed to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and cultivate up to six marijuana plants at home. You can have all the bongs, chillums, and Blunt wrappers you want, and you can enjoy your weed on private property.
However, Initiative 71 doesn’t let you buy weed in DC. Instead, you must use a legal loophole known as the gifting system.
Eventually, this process won’t be necessary as laws evolve. Meanwhile, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of gifting if you don’t have a MMJ card in DC.
Is Weed Legalized in DC for Non-Residents?
Again, the short answer is yes! It’s true that non-residents in DC cannot apply for a MMJ card.
But thanks to Initiative 71, even tourists to the city can legally get their weed.
The process might be confusing at first, but the gifting system is actually very straightforward – if you go to a dispensary that is transparent and clear throughout the entire transaction.
Initiative 71 - Explained
We’ve mentioned Initiative 71 a few times, so let’s understand it so that you know why you must learn about gifting.
This legislation came into effect on February 26, 2015. Now, recreational use of marijuana, in general, is no longer a crime.
Is weed legal in Washington, DC? Well, yes and no. Adults over 21 can possess up to two ounces of weed, grow six plants at home (only three can be mature at a time), and enjoy weed on private property.
But the law still prohibits anyone from possessing more than two ounces. You still cannot smoke or consume marijuana in a public place or anywhere the public is invited, like a café. You still cannot operate a vehicle or a boat under the influence.
Plus, Initiative 71 doesn’t let you legally sell or buy weed in DC. Instead, you have to receive or give it as a gift.
The law allows for the transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana so long as the recipient is over the age of 21 and no money, goods, or services are exchanged.
Is Weed Legal in Washington DC? - The Gifting System
To be compliant with Initiative 71, you must learn the gifting system.
The process is fairly simple in dispensaries that are designed to follow the law. Simply put, you go into a store and ask to see the menu of items for sale that include an Initiative 71-compliant gift.
These items may be digital art, toys, t-shirts, or music that has a cost equal to what you would expect to pay for marijuana.
You can purchase these legal items and then receive the cannabis gift of your choice. Remember, you are not buying weed, so be mindful of your words within the dispensary.
Marijuana Legalized in DC - The History
It’s been decades of political battles to get marijuana legalized in DC.
In 1998, voters first approved the legalization of medical weed, but Congress prohibited the use of district funds to support the initiative.
It was put on hold until 2009, and by 2013, there were medical cannabis dispensaries available to residents.
In 2014, the possession of cannabis was decriminalized, and a few months later, Initiative 71 was passed with nearly 65% voter approval. As the Washington DC weed laws evolved, fewer people were arrested for weed-related offenses, and police could focus on protecting the community instead.
Washington DC Weed Laws - The Fine Print
It’s worth noting, then, that some people are still arrested for marijuana-related reasons, even after Initiative 71 came into effect. Washington DC weed laws still make it illegal to consume it in public, sell, buy, or operate a vehicle or vessel under the influence. It’s also still illegal to possess weed on federal land.
If you are arrested, it is possible that you could face up to 30 years in jail, pay a fine, and have your weed confiscated. The penalties vary. For example, if you are over 21 but cannot prove it, an officer can take your weed but must return it once you are able to show proper identification.
You should also know that Washington DC weed laws also allow for employers to create their own rules surrounding marijuana. That is, your boss can demand you not to smoke, even though it’s completely legal.
For those who have already had a run-in with the law in DC regarding cannabis possession, the legislation now states that they can even petition the court to expunge their record.
Is Marijuana Legal in DC? - Checklist
So, is weed legal in DC? The answer should be clear now. Just make sure of the following, so you can follow DC weed laws and not run into problems.
- Is the dispensary aware of the Initiative 71 gifting process?
- Are you over the age of 21?
- Are you purchasing an item and receiving no more than one ounce of weed flower or concentrates as a gift?
- Are you only consuming it in a private residence?
If the answers are all yes, then you’ll be on your way to getting the weed you want.
Of course, the most important thing is to be able to trust the dispensary so that they can help you stay within the law and not worry about getting into trouble. Is marijuana legal in Washington DC? Only a trustworthy dispensary will be clear with the answer.
A great place to start is Peace in the Air, located at 2118 18th Street in Adams Morgan.
You can buy music and get gifted a wide range of high-quality and affordable weed, edibles, pre-rolls, CBD, and accessories. The shop even delivers and allows for online orders for quick pick-ups and order tracking.
Best of all, they know the law and can help answer any questions you might have.