Weed The People: What You Need to Know About Pot Legalization in Washington, DC
The rules are about to change ... or are they? Here's your guide.
— -- The citizens of the District of Columbia in November voted to pass Initiative 71, which legalized the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and the cultivation of up to three marijuana plants for individuals over the age of 21. That measure is scheduled to take effect at midnight Thursday.
However, the initiative did not create funding for the regulation of the substance, which would be required to legalize sales. The measure was put on the ballot through citizen initiative, and in D.C., citizen initiatives cannot mandate spending.
Here are some key points you need to know:
What Congress Has to Say About It:
Congress attempted to block the implementation of the law by attaching language to a continuing resolution that passed in December that blocks funding of any sort from being appropriated to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, sent a letter to Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser saying that Initiative 71 cannot go into effect under the law.
Congress had a 30-day layover period to review the initiative after it was transmitted to Congress in January. During that time, Congress could have rejected the measure using a joint resolution of disapproval. Congress has not passed such a measure, but Chaffetz said the language in the continuing resolution prevents the law from moving forward without a joint resolution of disapproval.
What Happens Thursday:
Regardless of the legality, the Metropolitan Police Department takes orders from the city. So unless the city changes its mind, marijuana will be legal in D.C. Thursday.
Here is a cheat sheet to help you better understand what is allowed and not allowed.
In D.C., you can ...
... possess up to two ounces of marijuana on your person. Any amount more than two ounces is still illegal and will amount to a misdemeanor with a fine of $1,000, or as much as to six months in jail.
... give up to one ounce as a gift. Though selling is prohibited, individuals may exchange as much as once ounce as a gift.
... grow up to six marijuana plants. However, the law says you may only possess three “mature, flowering plants” at any given time -- with the provision intended to make it more difficult to grow enough marijuana to sell.
In D.C., you cannot ...
... grow marijuana outside of your residence. The law allows for growing, but it must be “within the interior of a house, building or rental unit that constitutes such a person’s principal residence.”
... consume marijuana in public. You can have it on your person, but you cannot legally consume it publicly in any fashion.
... sell the substance in any quantity. Purchasing or selling the drug is illegal. However, you may transfer up to one ounce to another individual for free as a gift.
... drive while under the influence of marijuana. Unlike alcohol, there’s no “legal limit,” per se. It’s illegal to drive while under the influence of any amount of marijuana.
... have marijuana in your possession on any federal land. Legalization is only in local D.C. territory. Some examples of places you cannot have the substance in your possession include the National Mall and the Capitol.
In D.C., it’s not a good idea to ...
... have pot in your possession anywhere you might be stopped by U.S. Park Police or Capitol Police. The Capitol Police and Park Police enforce federal law around the Capitol. According to the U.S. Capitol Police’s website, this includes about a 47-square block radius around the Capitol. So even if you are not going anywhere you can actually see the Capitol building, you might want to think twice before putting that weed in your pocket.