Washington DC Marijuana Trafficking Laws

Can You Mail Weed Legally in the District of Columbia

No. Although residents can possess minimal amounts of weed under Initiative 71 in the District of Columbia, shipping weed by mail may put both the sender and the recipient at legal risk. Since marijuana is still classified as illegal federally, shipping cannabis via a federally administered postal system, such as the United States Postal Service (USPS), may result in drug trafficking charges and harsh penalties.

Mailing marijuana through private postal carriers such as UPS or FedEx may also potentially result in legal consequences. These shipping companies have policies banning the transportation of items deemed unlawful by municipal, state, and federal laws.

What Are the Penalties for Transporting Edibles Across State Lines in the District of Columbia?

Although marijuana edibles have been legal in the District of Columbia since 2015, transporting them across state lines is illegal. Transportation across state lines is subject to federal jurisdiction. Hence, you may be apprehended and investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) if caught transporting marijuana edibles across state lines. Edibles refer to foods such as cookies, gummies, candies, and other baked products infused with marijuana.

The DEA considers transporting marijuana and its products across state lines as drug trafficking. Drug trafficking attracts 5-year imprisonment and a $250,00 fine for marijuana products up to 50kg for first-time offenders. Second-time offenders are liable to be punished with up to 10 years imprisonment and up to $500,000 in fines.

How to Get a Drug Trafficking Charge Dismissed in the District of Columbia?

A conviction for drug trafficking attracts harsh penalties, including huge fines and lengthy jail terms. If you want to have your drug trafficking charge dismissed, consider the following steps:

  • Prove that there was a mistake: Demonstrating that the drug trafficking charges against you should not have applied is one approach to get them dismissed. You can get your charges dismissed if you prove that the suspicion that you intended to sell, deliver, or distribute the drugs discovered in your possession was untrue. If the prosecution cannot provide substantial proof that you intended to distribute the drugs to others, charges are likely to be dismissed
  • Challenge how the state obtained its evidence: Contesting how the evidence in your case was obtained is another way to get your charges dismissed. If the state collected evidence in an incorrect or unlawful manner, you may be able to have your charges dismissed. For instance, if a police officer illegally searched your car, house, or other property, you can contest the admission of such evidence under the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment requires police or law enforcement to obtain a warrant or probable cause in order to search your property unless you consent to the search
  • Entrapment Defense: Entrapment occurs when the government or a confidential informant puts unnecessary pressure on you to commit an offense you would not otherwise commit. This can be an effective defense when the government agent (undercover cop) is working with a confidential informant (CI) and putting pressure on you to traffic drugs. An entrapment defense is an absolute defense. It is as if you admit that you committed the crime but say there is a legal justification for it. Entrapment defenses are effective but only applicable in a few cases and specific scenarios

Note that knowing how to get a drug trafficking charge dismissed is not the same as actually doing it. Typically, obtaining the dismissal of a drug trafficking allegation requires huge amounts of legal expertise and experience. To be successful in having your drug trafficking charge dismissed, it is recommended that you seek the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Drug Trafficking Facts in the District of Columbia

The term "Drug Trafficking" is not included in the DC criminal code. Instead, the actions of manufacturing, delivering, distributing, delivering, or possessing illegal drugs with the intent to sell are criminalized under Section 48-904.01 of the DC Code. Pursuant to this section, the allegations of drug distribution are treated differently depending on the type of drug in question.

For instance, the harshest punishments are reserved for those convicted of illegal drug distribution. Illegal drugs include heroin, amphetamines, methamphetamines, oxycodone, opium, ecstasy, and cocaine. Controlled or illegal substances are listed under Subchapter II of Chapter 9 of the DC Code.

Possession with intent to distribute a Schedule I Substance, such as heroin, carries a maximum punishment of 30 years in jail or a $75,000 fine. Maximum penalties for distributing, selling, or having with intent to distribute Schedule II substances are 30 years in jail and a $75,000 fine. If the drug is not classified as a narcotic or an abusive substance (such as hallucinogens or prescription medicines), possession with the intent to distribute or sell it is penalized by five years in jail or a $12,500 fine.

For selling or possessing Schedule III substances with the intent to sell, the penalties include five years in jail and a $12,500 fine. The punishment for selling or possessing Schedule IV substances with the intent to sell is three years in jail and a $12,500 fine. The maximum punishment for possessing Schedule V narcotics with the intent to distribute is 12 months imprisonment or a $2,500 fine. Note that DC allows adults aged 21 or older to transfer up to one ounce of marijuana to other persons over the age of 21 without fear of punishment, provided no exchange of money or value takes place.

According to data obtained from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system, 24 drug sales and manufacturing arrests were made in DC in 2016. In 2017, the figure dropped to 13. In 2018, arrest figures rose to 31 but dropped again to 27 in 2019. In 2020, figures obtained from the FBI UCR indicated only 5 arrests were made for drug sales and manufacturing in DC.

How Many Grams of Weed Is Considered Trafficking in the District of Columbia?

Two ounces. Per Initiative 71, which went into effect in 2015, DC adults may possess up to two ounces in their primary residences without fear of penalty. However, adults who possess more than this amount may be suspected of possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute, sell, or deliver to other persons for compensation or other items of value.

What Are the Weed Trafficking Consequences in the District of Columbia?

Under Section 48-904.01 of the DC Code, a person convicted of possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute may be penalized with a maximum of 5 years in prison, a maximum of a $50,000 fine, or both. A first-time offender with no prior conviction for distribution, production, or possession with intent to distribute who is caught with less than half a pound of marijuana may be sentenced to up to six months in jail, a maximum $1,000 fine, or both.

For a first offense, the court may, without pronouncing a judgment of guilt and with the offender's cooperation, delay future proceedings and put the offender on probation under reasonable terms and for no more than one year.

According to Section 48-904.06 of the DC Code, the punishment for distribution of marijuana to a minor by a person over 21 is doubled. A person over 21 who enlists a minor to distribute prohibited marijuana faces up to 10 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine, according to Section 48-904.07 of the DC Code. A second-time offender may be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in jail and a maximum $20,000 fine.

Possession with the intent to distribute or distribution within 1000 feet of a drug-free zone may also result in a doubled penalty. Public or private daycare centers, elementary schools, vocational schools, secondary schools, junior colleges, colleges, or universities, as well as public swimming pools, playgrounds, video arcades, youth centers, libraries, and public housing, are drug-free zones in DC.

Other potential consequences for marijuana trafficking convictions are less tangible than jail terms and fines. A drug trafficking conviction may hinder your ability to acquire decent employment, certain professional licenses, join the military, or gain admission to graduate school. It is also possible that you are considered ineligible for federally subsidized student loans or other kinds of federal student aid. A conviction for marijuana trafficking might undermine your shared custody agreement and prohibit you from seeing your children if you have joint custody.

How to Transport Weed Legally in the District of Columbia

Only cannabis businesses that have obtained cultivation center licenses can legally transport weed in the District of Columbia. To get a cannabis cultivation center license, you must submit an application and a letter of intent to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) in DC. Cultivation centers are not permitted to be: 

  • Located in a retail priority area
  • Located within 300 feet of a recreation center, preschool, primary school, or secondary school
  • Located in a residential district
  • Collocated with any other type of business

Applicants must: 

  • Be aged 21 or older
  • Not be convicted of a crime (felony) of violence, tax evasion, gun offense, fraud, or credit card fraud in the three years prior to the application date
  • Have good character
  • Not be licensed physicians that make patient recommendations

Under Section 5621 of the DC Municipal Regulations, for a cultivation center to transport marijuana, the establishment must obtain a transport permit from ABRA. To transport weed legally, an original transport permit is required for each vehicle designated by a cultivation center or its agent. Only an employee, member, officer, director, incorporator, or agent registered with ABRA can transport weed in DC. For medical marijuana patients and licensed caregivers transporting medical marijuana products, such products must be in containers or sealed packages bearing the labels from the dispensaries.