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Marijuana Enforcement

District of Columbia voters passed Initiative 71 in 2014, legalizing small amounts of marijuana by adults for personal, in-home use in the District. It is important for residents to remember that marijuana is only legal in specific instances. Security personnel are important partners in enforcing the law and ensuring that residents and visitors to the District understand the law.

What is legal?

A person who is 21 years of age or older may:

  • Possess or transport two ounces or less of marijuana;
  • Transfer one ounce or less of marijuana to another person who is also 21 years of age or older;
  • Cultivate within the interior of their house or rental unit (if allowed by the landlord), up to six cannabis plants, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants;
  • Possess within the person’s principal residence, the marijuana produced by the cannabis plants; or
  • Possesses or use drug paraphernalia associated with possession of one ounce or less of marijuana (e.g., bongs, cigarette rolling papers, cigar wrappers, etc.).

A person can still be arrested for:

  • Possessing more than two ounces of marijuana;
  • Selling any amount of marijuana or giving any amount of marijuana to a person in exchange for money, goods, or services;
  • Operating a vehicle or boat under the influence of marijuana; or
  • Smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana in a public space.

Simply smelling the odor of marijuana does not present a reasonable articulable suspicion. However, because consuming marijuana is still prohibited in public and because those under 21 are prohibited to possess it in any capacity, security personnel should remain aware of those violations at their workplaces. Additionally, although the District of Columbia has decriminalized possession of a small amount of marijuana, 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.

Security personnel can be helpful in keeping the public informed. They and the public may access more information online for additional information.


This article is part of the MPD’s “Security Snapshot” series, which is designed for security personnel working in the District of Columbia. While this information may be of interest to the general public, any recommendations or guidance in these articles has been created with a focus on security personnel.