Under D.C.'s Recreational Marijuana Law, What's Legal, What's Not?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on February 26, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Recreational pot is now legal in Washington, D.C., to a certain extent. Initiative 71 took effect at midnight, after some 70 percent of District residents voted to approve the measure last fall.

While some possession and private consumption of marijuana is now permitted in the capital, D.C.'s pot scene won't immediately resemble that of Colorado or Washington state.

Here's a look at where the District's statute stands now, and the possible hang-ups moving forward:

Take and Toke

D.C.'s new recreational pot law allows residents and visitors over 21 to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana along with paraphernalia (such as pipes) for its consumption. The law also allows residents to grow up to six plants in their home, though only three of those plants may be mature and flowering. In addition, the initiative permits the transfer of up to 1 ounce of pot to another person.

Weed consumption and cultivation is limited to the home, however, so no sparking up on the street or in public parks. And you can be arrested for driving while high.

No 'Green' Economy

What won't happen any time soon in D.C. is the kind of weed commerce sprouting up in Colorado and Washington state. Initiative 71 does not legalize the sale of marijuana, but unlike Alaska's ballot measure which gives the state legislature nine months to craft commercial regulations, there are no plans to permit pot shops or regulate and tax the industry in the District of Columbia.

This is largely because of the enormous pushback from Congress, which continued into this week. Marijuana remains a federally prohibited narcotic, and Congress has ultimate authority over the District. And a rider to the latest spending bill makes it illegal for D.C. to use any funds in an effort to legalize marijuana.

At this point, it's unclear how this standoff will resolve itself. Suffice it to say, you might want to hold up on your plans to open your own cannabis cafe down the street from the White House. And pot tourists would do well to remember that while federal authorities haven't meddled too much with intrastate marijuana sales, crossing state (and District) lines with the stuff could get you in trouble.

With federal, state, and District marijuana statutes in flux, you may want to consult an attorney with industry experience to ensure you're on the right side of the law.

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