DC weed laws are some of the most interesting and confusing laws when it comes to cannabis in the United States. All thanks to the Harris Rider bill, which blocks DC from using its own tax monies to create a recreational cannabis market. This resulted in over 100 unregulated dispensaries that operate under the “gifting” loophole through Initiative 71. This market is currently the dominant market with much lower prices and superior quality when buying weed in DC.
In this article, we break down all the most important DC weed laws from 2015-2023 from possession, growing, transferring, distributing, cannabis paraphernalia, consuming in public, DUI’s, and manufacturing hashish/concentrates.
Laws on DC Marijuana Possession
Initiative 71 allows for DC residents and non-residents, 21 years or older, to possess no more than 2 ounces of marijuana. If you are found with more than 2 ounces in your possession, you face up to 6 months in jail or a maximum of $1,000 fine.
Laws on Growing Weed in DC
If there are two or more adult residents 21 years or older in the household that wants to cultivate cannabis, the laws in DC goes as following:
In Washington DC you can currently possess, grow, harvest, or process, within the interior of your house or rental unit, no more than 6 cannabis plants, with 3 or fewer being in the flowering stage. If there are multiple adults within the household that want to grow cannabis together, that one household cannot possess, grow, harvest, or process more than 12 cannabis plants total, with 6 or fewer being in the flowering stage.
Learn more: Check out our guide on how to grow weed in DC for a full break down on plant cycling and harvesting to stay legally compliant.
Sales, Transfer, and Distribution of Cannabis in DC
Initiative 71 allows the gifting of no more than 1 ounce of cannabis as long as no money, trade, or goods are exchanged for the cannabis. The only way to legally transfer recreational marijuana in Washington, DC is by gifting it to another adult 21 years or older. If you are found guilty of transferring any amount of cannabis under the amount of ½ a pound, with money, service, or goods exchanged, you face a maxim penalty of 6 months in jail or a $1,000 fine. Repeat offenders for sales or distribution of ½ lb or less will result in a maximum of 2 years in jail or a $5,000 fine. Distribution or sales of ½ a lb or more marijuana will result in a maximum of 5 years in jail or a maximum of $50,000 fine.
Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis Laws in DC
DC law states that any person who operates a motor vehicle within the District gives his or her consent to 2 chemical tests of either your blood, urine, or breath, to determine your blood-alcohol content or blood-drug content. If you refuse to submit chemical testing, the officer has a right to revoke your license for one year.
If the officer has enough evidence to determine you are driving under the influence of cannabis, your first offense will be a maximum of $300 fine with possible imprisonment for no more than 90 days. The second offense will result in a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $5,000 with imprisonment up to one year but no less than 5 days due to mandatory-minimum laws. The third and subsequent offense will result in no less than $2,000 and no more than $10,000 fine, with up to one year to 10 days mandatory jail sentence.
Enhancements to sentencing can occur with added community services, suspension of license, and additional fines and community service if you are found driving under the influence of cannabis while transporting a minor.
Learn more: DC cannabis DUI laws and penalties.
DC Paraphernalia Laws (blunt wraps, cones, scales)
Drug paraphernalia laws in DC make it legal to sell and possess if you are above the age of 21 years old. Criminal offenses occur with anyone under the age of 21 for both possession and sales of drug paraphernalia.
In DC, drug paraphernalia covers a wide range of items such as: kits for planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, or harvesting any controlled substance such as grow lights, hydroponic trays, grow tents, and cannabis plant nutrients. Cannabis paraphernalia also includes kits or objects used to manufacture, compound, convert, produce, and process marijuana such as scales, trimming kits, diluents and adulterants, blenders, bowls, containers, spoons, and rosin presses.
Common items used to consume and inhale cannabis are also considered paraphernalia like bongs, dab rigs, pipes, bongs, roach clips, electric dab rigs, ice pipes, blunt wraps, joint papers, empty cones, and weed grinders.
Concentrates and Hashish Laws in DC
Hashish is still considered a controlled substance in Washington DC and the law doesn’t specifically allow possession of concentrates, but currently every medical dispensary in DC sells concentrates such as rosin, kief, live resin, shatter and so does all the I71 gifting stores. You can see our complete list for the best concentrates in DC or the most trusted vendors for DC carts. Possession of Hashish imposes a maximum of 180 days in jail with no more than $1,000 fine. Manufacturing hashish is punishable by up to a maximum of 5 years in prison and up to $50,000 fine.
Consuming Cannabis in Public Space
Initiative 71 allows anyone in DC 21 years or older to smoke in private spaces. It is illegal to smoke weed or consume THC such as edibles in DC in public or in any place in public to which the public is invited such as: parks, restaurants, malls, parking lots, hookah lounges, clubs, bars, and alleys. If you are 21 years or older and are caught smoking weed in public, you face up to 60 days in jail with a maximum of $500 fine. If you are under 21 the police will seize your marijuana and contact your parents/caregivers.
DC Cannabis Laws 2015 - 2023 (Updated Daily)
In order from most recent are all the DC laws governing cannabis and shrooms that has influenced and shaped all of Washington DC cannabis laws as of 2023.
The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022
- DC residents and non-residents no longer need a doctor’s note to gain access to a medical marijuana card. Learn how to get a DC medical marijuana card to buy medical cannabis same day. If you are an out-of-state patient, DC offers reciprocity to 38 states so your out-of-state card may also be active in DC.
- The limit on the amount of medical dispensaries was removed, and new licenses will be offered to a select amount of unregulated I71 gifting stores by 2024.
- New licenses will be created to offer cannabis online retailers such as medical DC weed delivery services, cannabis cooking classes, tasting events, and summer sales events.
- 50% of the new medical dispensary licenses will be reserved for anyone that was disproportionately harmed by a cannabis related conviction. 75% of these applicants will have their licenses fees and application fees waived for the first three years.
- Tax break during the week of 4-20 for medical dispensaries on sales of cannabis.
Initiative 71 Law
The Initiative 71 law is known as the “Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act”. The law was passed in 2014 and went into effect February 26, 2015. The primary purpose of I71 was to decriminalize smaller amounts of marijuana and legalize the possession and consumption of marijuana for DC residents. The I71 law allows the following:
- If you are 21 years of age, cannabis is legal to possess and consume.
- You can possess two ounces of marijuana maximum.
- You can only smoke on private property.
- Smoking in the car and driving under the influence of cannabis are forbidden.
- You cannot consume cannabis on federal grounds.
- You can cultivate up to six marijuana plants on your private or rental property (with your landlord's permission).
- You cannot sell or buy weed.
The Initiative 71 law allows for “gifting” of cannabis, which is the famous loophole that gave the I71 gifting stores their way to safely “gift” cannabis and create the current recreational cannabis market in DC.
Entheognic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020
Initiative 81, the “Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020” is a ballot initiative that allows DC residents to use, grow, plant, and distribute (non commercially) any entheognic plants or fungi without the fear of arrest or investigation. Entheognic plants are still illegal, but Initiative 81 makes a nonbinding call to the DC Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for the DC police to cease prosecution, arrest, and investigations of entheogenic related charges.
Entheognic plants are:
- Any mushrooms or fungi containing Psilocybin
- Any cacti containing Mescaline (Peyote)
- Any plants containing Iboga
- Any plants containing DMT (mimosa root bark)
Harris Rider Bill
Harris Rider is the bill that is currently blocking DC from using tax dollars to create regulatory laws to form a recreational cannabis market. Due to the Harris Rider bill, over 100 unregulated I71 gifting stores now exist in DC. Each year, Republican Andy Harris attaches his rider into a much larger Appropriations bill that is seen as “must-pass” in the eyes of congress. In order to avoid a Government shutdown, lawmakers must pass the entire bill, with the Harris Rider bill piggybacking on top. Currently, this bill is staying in effect into the 2024 fiscal year, and DC still does not have any funding to begin forming a recreational cannabis market.
The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022
The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022 (MCAA) legally went into effect January 2023. The MCAA is a critical legislation to help aid medical marijuana dispensaries in sales lost to the gifting market (learn what is gifting in DC).
Some key features of the MCAA are:
- You no longer need a doctors' recommendation to obtain a medical marijuana card, you can simply “self-certify” online and be approved within minutes with a digital medical marijuana card.
- The MCAA will allow unlicensed gifting stores to obtain a medical cannabis license, with 50% of the licenses reserved to anyone previously convicted and imposed for marijuana charges.
- Create safe-use facilities where medical marijuana patients can smoke on site legally while enjoying music and food.
- Summer garden endorsement license to allow rooftop and patio venues to sell medical marijuana and for customers to consume THC on the premise to live music, trivia, and karaoke.
- Businesses will receive licenses to allow for cannabis cooking classes in DC.
- Creates a sales tax relief during the largest cannabis sales week of 4-20, during DC 420 week, prior to the National Cannabis Festival.
The Marijuana Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022
The Marijuana Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022 (CEPAA) was signed by Mayor Bower in 2022, and became an acting law in July 2023. The CEPPA protects DC employees from being fired, failed to hire, demoted, or punished for using recreational or medicinal marijuana during non-working hours.
As of July 2023, employees in the District of Columbia can no longer penalize employees for the following:
- Employers cannot refuse to hire an individual based on their cannabis usage
- Employers cannot fire or suspend employees from using THC
- Employers cannot deny promotions or demote an employee because of marijuana usage.
The Marijuana Employment Protections Act does not protect employees that operate any “Safety sensitive” jobs. Safety sensitive jobs refers to any job that if an employee was under the influence of cannabis, could cause serious bodily injury or loss of life to oneself or others.
It is up to the employer to decide whether the occupation is a “safety sensitive” job. Here are jobs that will automatically classify as “safety sensitive” in DC:
- Jobs that involve firearms or security such as police, security offers, and special police.
- Jobs that involve handling heavy machinery such as DDOT and construction workers.
- Jobs that involve frequent driving or handling of vehicles
- Jobs that are near or on power or gas utility lines
- Jobs that require you to care for anyone such as children, elders, or mentally disabled.