After much back and forth, Washington, D.C. residents passed the Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014, or Initiative 71 – going into effect in 2015. However, Congressional opposition almost stopped the law, which legalized recreational use but not commercial sale. However, today the law remains in effect.
For medical cannabis, Washington, D.C.'s program is now five years old and treats over 5,500 patients. Over the years, the District has made steps to expand access to residents and those living in other states. Much like the United States as a whole, the capital's transition into the cannabis market has been gradually gaining steam to where it currently stands.
Qualified medical marijuana patients can possess up to four ounces of medical cannabis. Adult users can have up to two ounces, and six plants (3 mature, 3 seedling) or less before risking any potential fines or incarceration.
Patients can buy up to four ounces of cannabis in any 30-day period. Customers can purchase flower, concentrates, edibles, transdermal products, seeds and seedlings. Recreational dispensaries are currently illegal in the District.
Washington, D.C. accepts the following medical conditions:
Multiple Sclerosis and conditions characterized by severe and persistent muscle spasms
The following medical treatments qualify as well:
Use of azidothymidine or protease inhibitors
Other conditions can be accepted as well with the approval of a qualified physician so long as they are determined to be, “chronic or long-lasting; or debilitating or interferes with the basic functions of life; and is a serious medical condition for which the use of medical marijuana is beneficial, that cannot be effectively treated by any ordinary medical or surgical measure, or for which there is scientific evidence that the use of medical marijuana is likely to be significantly less addictive than the ordinary medical treatment for that condition.”
The District authorizes patients to assign one caregiver. Caregivers can assist one patient at any time.
To become qualified, the District lists the following requirements:
- Must be designated by a patient to serve as the person authorized, on the patient’s behalf, to possess, obtain from a dispensary, dispense, and assist in the administration of medical marijuana
- Be registered with the Department of Health as the patient’s caregiver
- Must not already be registered to care for another patient
- Must be at least eighteen (18) years of age
- Have never been convicted of possession or sale of a controlled substance unless such conviction occurred after the effective date of the Act (July 2010) and was related to the possession of marijuana that is authorized under the Act
Qualified patients can consume their medical marijuana at home or at a medical facility that permits its use. Recreational cannabis consumption is only legal on private property.
Driving Under the Influence
Under the District’s medical cannabis laws, qualified patients are strictly prohibited to "operate, navigate, or be in actual physical control of any motor vehicle, aircraft, or motorboat while under the influence of medical marijuana." The same goes for recreational consumers as well.
Washington, D.C. does not allow for home cultivation by patients or caregivers. All medical cannabis in the marketplace comes from authorized cultivation centers. Adults 21 years or older are allowed to cultivate and possess up to six plant at a time, with 3 being mature and 3 being seedlings.
Medical Cannabis Reciprocity
Washington, D.C. introduced additional legislation in 2015 to provide "access to medical marijuana in the District of Columbia to those patients enrolled in a medical marijuana program from other jurisdictions." Originally, 19 states were approved. In 2019 that list was expanded to include a total of 27 states. Additionally, four more states are under review to be added to the list: Louisiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. To qualify, the patient must be undergoing an approved medical treatment or have a valid license from their home state.
Patients from the following states can purchase their medicine in Washington, D.C.:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- Washington State