Washington DC Marijuana Possession Laws

Is Possession of Marijuana Legal in Washington DC?

Yes. The possession of small amounts of marijuana is legal for adults in Washington DC, albeit within limits set in the Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Initiative, aka Initiative 71.

Adult (recreational) possession and use of Marijuana became legal in Washington DC in February 2015. Despite the legality, the District still regulates the amount of marijuana a person may possess, transfer to other persons, or cultivate. Persons who use or possess marijuana outside the limits set in Initiative 71 will be subject to civil penalties or criminal charges, depending on the circumstances surrounding the violation.

The Government of the District of Columbia regulates marijuana use and possession. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) enforces these regulations, arrests, and investigates violations and crimes related to marijuana use and possession.

How Much Weed Is a Felony in Washington DC?

The possession of weed is legal in Washington DC. However, possession can become a crime, particularly a felony, under certain circumstances. Possession can become a felony depending on factors like the person’s age, the amount of weed, the location of the arrest, and the circumstances surrounding the arrest.

For the most part, possession of weed above the legal limit of two ounces (57 grams) is a misdemeanor. The most common situation where criminal possession becomes a felony is in instances where an individual has more than eight ounces (half-pound) of marijuana per (DC. Official Code § 48-904.01.).

Other factors that could result in felony charges include:

  • The location of the arrest: For example, possessing illegal amounts of weed with the intent to distribute near school areas, children's playgrounds, and other drug-free zones as defined in section 3(1) of the United States Housing Act of 1937 (88 Stat. 654; 42 U.S.C. § 1437a(b)).
  • The circumstance surrounding the arrest: Distributing or possessing large quantities of weed while in the act of violent or sexual crimes.
  • The age of those involved: Enlisting a minor in the sales or distribution of weed or encouraging them to consume or possess weed. 

What Are the Penalties for 1st Time Offense of Possession of Weed in Washington DC?

The penalties for first-time offenders include seizure of the weed and a ticket or civil infraction notice of violation. In aggravating cases, law enforcement may indict the individual, resulting in civil fines, community service, drug counseling, or jail time following a court hearing. Generally, the penalties become severe with subsequent offenses.

These penalties are stipulated under the District of Columbia Official Code § 48-904.01(a)(2B). The following are first-time possession offenses and their corresponding penalties: 

  • The unlawful possession or distribution of marijuana. This incurs a penalty of no more than a $1,000 fine, 180 days of jail time, or both.
  • Unlawful possession or intention to possess marijuana, unless with a valid prescription or acting on the orders of a medical practitioner. The court can place the individual on probation for not more than one year. At the end of the probation, the court could dismiss the proceedings and discharge the individual. First-time offenders can also appeal to the court to expunge the case from all public records. 
  • Contracting or employing the services of a person under 18 years in the sales or distribution of marijuana. This will result in 10 years imprisonment, a $10,000 fine, or both. 

Where to Buy Legal Weed in Washington DC

As of now, there are no legal recreational cannabis dispensaries in operation. The District is working on the legalization and licensing of recreational cannabis dispensaries. Until then, the ways to obtain marijuana in Washington DC involve:

  • From “gifting” dispensaries: Selling cannabis, no matter how small, is illegal. But gifting up to one ounce of cannabis to persons 21 years or older is legal. Stores introduced models whereby people buy small items like mugs or stickers and then get cannabis for “free.” This method of obtaining cannabis might result in some legal problems because security officers report these pop-ups to the Metropolitan Police Department. However, no legal action has been taken so far. Nevertheless, registered patients with Medical Marijuana Cards can purchase two ounces of cannabis every month from licensed medical dispensaries.
  • As a transfer from other individuals:  It is legal for persons 21 years or older to transfer (without payment of any kind) up to one ounce of cannabis flower or its equivalent in other forms such as edibles and concentrates to another person 21 years or older.
  • Besides the ways mentioned above, any individual convicted of distributing, manufacturing, or possessing marijuana with intent to sell will face charges. Being convicted can incur a fine of $1000 – $50000. The court may also sentence the offender to six months to five years in jail. The penalty depends on the factors surrounding the violation. Penalties for first-time offenders are at the lower limit. 

How Old Do You Have to Be to Buy Weed in Washington DC

It is illegal for any individual (adult or underage) to buy or sell recreational cannabis in Washington DC. 

  • Since it is legal for persons 21 years or older to have or consume weed, they can obtain it from gifting dispensaries. Pending when recreational cannabis dispensaries obtain operational licenses in the District.
  • Selling or gifting weed to a person under 21 years of age is an offense with a double penalty. The exception is when the underage person is a registered patient buying in the presence of their guardians or caregivers. 

How Much Weed Can You Carry in Washington DC?

Based on Initiative 71, it is legal for individuals 21 years and older to possess not more than two ounces (57 grams) of cannabis.

  • Individuals with Medical Marijuana Cards can possess a maximum of two ounces of marijuana per month. 
  • Due to the peculiarity of Washington DC, and the contradiction between state and federal cannabis laws, it is necessary to be discreet about the possession of marijuana of any amount as it is still illegal federally and can result in arrest by federal law enforcement agencies.

What Happens if You Get Caught With Weed Under 18 in Washington DC? 

If an individual under 21 years of age is found in possession of marijuana of fewer than two ounces, it will be seized, and their guardians or caregivers will be notified. If it is two ounces or more, they will be arrested and prosecuted.

  • Save for qualified patients, under no circumstance should an underage person possess cannabis, cannabis concentrate, or cannabis products. This restriction applies not just in public but also in private residences. 
  • A registered underage patient can possess and administer medical cannabis only after their guardians or caregivers have given informed consent and signed the necessary documents.  
  • Employing an underage person in the distribution of cannabis can result in ten to 20 years imprisonment and a $10,000 - $20,000 fine. 

How Many Marijuana Plants Can You Have in Washington DC?

Adults 21 years or older can cultivate not more than six cannabis plants. Of the six, not more than three should be mature flowering plants. In residences with more than one adult, the total number of cannabis plants should not exceed 12. Of the 12, not more than six should be mature or flowering.

How Much Weed Can You Fly With From Washington DC?

It is legal to fly with products that contain no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol or products approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Federal laws regulate airplane travel in the United States of America and marijuana is a schedule 1 drug per federal law, hence its illegal status. 

Nevertheless, the Transport Security Administration (TSA) stated that it focuses its search on items like explosives that are aviation threats. If they find marijuana in the course of security screening, especially in amounts above the District's limit, they will report to the local law enforcement officials for prosecution in line with the District's law.

Is It Illegal to Be High in Public in Washington DC?

No. It is not illegal to be high in public in Washington DC. But public consumption of marijuana is a misdemeanor that warrants a non-custodial arrest per the policy change implemented by Mayor Muriel Bowser. This means that the police will not take offenders into custody. But the offenders should report to the police within 15 days. Underage offenders or offenders who pose a risk to properties and human life, however, do not qualify for a non-custodial arrest.  

Marijuana consumption (by smoking or any other means) is legal only within private residences. It is unlawful to consume marijuana in public spaces or on vehicles. Businesses that allow the use of marijuana on their premises could lose their license or certificate of occupancy

Initiative 71 has no impact on driving laws. Driving under the influence of drugs or impaired driving remains a criminal offense per DC Code § 50–2206.11

The odor of marijuana no longer presents a reasonable articulable suspicion. Hence, officers can not conduct a vehicle search based on smell alone. There has to be evidence of impaired driving. Driving under the influence of marijuana is subject to the District's impaired driving laws. Penalties depend on the status of the offense.