Is Weed Legal in DC? | Marijuana Legalization

Is weed legal in Washington DC? What about DC's Medicinal Marijuana laws? Is CBD Legal in DC? Find out in this article.

Officially known as the District of Colombia, Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States of America and is famously home to the White House, the home of all three branches of the U.S. Government.

Since the 1800s, the White House has been the residency for every U.S. President, including the current and 45th President, Donald J. Trump.

Washington, D.C. was named after the founding father George Washington on July 16, 1790, and has a population of 702,455 people. D.C. is home to many famous historical monuments and attractions, such as the War Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Library of Congress – the largest library in the world. Additionally, in D.C., you can also find the original Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the National Archives.

For all these reasons and more, tourism plays a central role in D.C.'s economy, with over 22 million tourists visiting the U.S. Capital in 2018, and more tourists are visiting each year. Tourism spending supported 76,522 jobs in D.C. in 2018 and is continuing to increase.

The U.S. Capital State is considered to be the heart of politics in the United States, which is why many are fascinated about what D.C's stance is on cannabis legalization.

So read on to find out the laws of the land when it comes to recreational cannabis, medicinal marijuana, and CBD in D.C.

Is Recreational Weed Legal in D.C.?

The short answer is yes, cannabis is indeed legal in Washington D.C., though the long answer is far more nuanced.

In November 2014, Initiative 71, also known as the 'Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014,'  was introduced to Washington, D.C., which sought to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. Initiative 71 gained majority approval with 64.87% of voters supporting the Act and went into full effect on February 26, 2015.

Much like in Australia's own Capital Territory, D.C. the act allowed for adults over the age of 21 to carry up to two ounces of marijuana, and grow up to three mature plants in their homes – though they cannot legally buy or sell the plant.

At this point, you may be wondering, how can people carry cannabis if they don't grow it, and aren't allowed to buy it?

Well, unlike here in Australia, D.C. store-owners have a method of selling cannabis, without exactly…selling cannabis.

D.C. law states that it is legal for adults to gift each other up to one ounce of cannabis. As a result, many store owners will sell products, whether it be t-shirts, stickers, raffle tickets, and as a "free gift", they'll throw in some cannabis. Oftentimes these vendors will sell relatively low-value products, like trading cards, and simply increase the price as a de facto method of selling cannabis. You might find a singular baseball card valued at $50 USD, which just so happens to come with a "free gift" of $50 worth of weed.

This phenomenon has become known as D.C.'s "weed gift economy," which comes packaged with some obvious pitfalls. The state is unable to tax or regulate marijuana products, so it's very difficult to know precisely how much cannabis is being sold, and what kind of quality the marijuana itself is. While other states are able to use their cannabis tax revenue to set up rehabilitation and drug education centers, D.C. doesn't have this system going for it.

For this reason, some legislators, such as the Mayor of D.C., Muriel Bowser, are attempting to introduce legislation that would allow for the commercial sale and purchase of cannabis and cannabis products.

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Is Medical Marijuana legal in DC?

Medical marijuana is indeed legal in D.C., though the journey to make it so has been a long and colourful one. In as early as 1998, a voter-approved ballot was introduced known as Initiative 59 which sought to legalize medicinal cannabis in the U.S. Capital State. The initiative passed with a 69% majority voting in favour of it in November 1998, though it would take over a decade before Initiative 59 could be properly implemented.

The delay in D.C.'s medicinal marijuana legalization was due to Bob Barr, a politician and strident supporter of the War on Drugs, who successfully blocked implementation of initiative 59 through his 'Barr Amendment' in 1999, which blocked Initiative 59 and also prevented the vote tally from being publicly released.

The Barr Amendment successfully impeded the commencement of the medical marijuana program for the proceeding decade, until eventually being overturned in 2009.

Following the overturn of the Barr Amendment, the District of Columbia Council passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana in 2010, making medicinal marijuana legal as of January 1st, 2011.

Slowly, dispensaries began opening in DC, and the first medical marijuana sale finally occurred in DC in 2013. Patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and other qualifying conditions can seek doctor approval to gain access to medicinal marijuana products, Under D.C.'s medicinal marijuana program, patients can legally buy up to four ounces of marijuana every month.

There are currently over 6,000 registered patients in D.C., though many out-of-state patients can gain access to the Capital State's dispensaries if needed. These individuals simply have to show their state-issued medical marijuana card to access any of the city's dispensaries and they can purchase cannabis just as a D.C. medical marijuana patient would.

This concept of providing medicinal marijuana to patients from outside states is called reciprocity and emerged as a result of the high amount of tourism to the State. Many travelers who required medical marijuana due to health conditions would still need to be able to access their medication, and so in 2016, the D.C. Council began looking into a reciprocity program. The program officially began in April 2018, and was limited to U.S. states whose medical marijuana programs were relatively the same as D.C.'s own regulations.

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Is CBD Legal in D.C.?

Cannabidiol, also known as CBD is indeed legal in D.C., as is the case in virtually every other U.S. State. This is, of course, thanks to the passage of the Farm Bill in 2018, which legalized the cultivation and distribution of hemp products, provided they contain less than 0.3% THC.

As cannabidiol is primarily consumed as a wellness or nutraceutical product, you can expect to find CBD products in health and wellbeing stores, as well as cannabis dispensaries.

CBD is believed to aid with anxiety, epilepsy, insomnia, inflammation, chronic pain, and many other issues, though research remains scant generally when it comes to the compound. The cannabinoid compound rose to prominence following the passage of the Farm Bill, and became ubiquitous shortly after, with many athletes and celebrities jumping on the bandwagon.

There have been some questions around the validity of some of the claims surrounding CBD, which can only be answered by extensive research. Until then, CBD remains largely a trend with uncertain benefits, excluding products designed to treat epilepsy, for which CBD has proven highly effective.

So there you have it, the weed laws of D.C. Keep tuned to find out the changes in the continually changing texture of the cannabis landscape here on The Green Fund.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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