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The Facts on DC Marijuana Laws

As of 12:01 am on Thursday, February 26, 2015, the possession of small amounts of marijuana is legal in the District of Columbia - in some circumstances - for adults 21 years of age and older.

Know the facts about marijuana possession!

What’s no longer a criminal violation?

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 law becomes effective on February 26, 2015.

As a result, it is legal for a person who is at least 21 years old to:

  • Possess two ounces or less of marijuana;
  • Transfer one 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 marijuana plants, no more than three 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 a criminal violation?

A person can still be arrested for:

  • Selling any amount of marijuana to another person;
  • Possessing more than two 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.

Marijuana possession by persons under 21 years of age is not allowed.

Initiative 71 did not change existing law on marijuana possession for anyone under 21 years of age: It is still illegal.

A person under 21 with more than two ounces of marijuana can be arrested.

If an MPD officer sees a person under 21 with up to two ounces of marijuana, it will be seized. However, the person will not be arrested or issued a ticket.

If the person says they are at least 21 years old but cannot prove their age, the person will be issued a warning ticket by the MPD officer. The seized marijuana will be returned if the person brings the warning ticket to the police station in the police district where the seizure occurred (no sooner than 24 hours and no later than 21 days after the seizure) and provides proof of age.

Impact on authorized medical marijuana users.

A person who has been issued a Medical Marijuana Card by the District Department of Health may continue to possess up to two ounces of medical marijuana per month. However, the use of medical marijuana in public remains a criminal offense and can result in arrest.

Enforcement by federal law enforcement agencies.

Although the District of Columbia has decriminalized possession of up to two 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 of Columbia 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.

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