Understanding the Changing Marijuana Laws in DC

After years of debate, the laws concerning marijuana have slowly begun to relax around the country. Recently, Washington, DC, joined a number of other states in easing the rules and the punishments concerning marijuana possession.

In February 2015, the new law entitled Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Initiative (more commonly known as Initiative 71) took effect. This law decriminalizes some actions related to marijuana growth and possession, though a number of serious charges can still be pursued and stiff penalties can be imposed by law enforcement.

In Washington, DC, Small Amounts of Marijuana Are Permitted

It is now legal for a person to possess small amounts of marijuana for his own personal use. Among the changes to the law, it is legal for those over 21 years of age to:

  • Possess two ounces or less of marijuana.
  • Give another person one ounce or less of marijuana, as long as no money, goods, or services are exchanged and that person is also over 21 years old.
  • Cultivate in their home up to six marijuana plants, with no more than three mature plants at a given time.
  • Possess marijuana paraphernalia (bongs, rolling papers, etc.) appropriate for no more than one ounce of marijuana.
  • Use marijuana on private property.

Additionally, law enforcement officers may no longer take action against a person or demand information simply because they smell marijuana.

What Is Still Illegal When it Comes to Marijuana in DC?

Though the new law does make it legal to possess and use a small amount of marijuana in one’s own home, there are still strict penalties for other acts regarding the drug. It is illegal to:

  • Possess more than two ounces of marijuana.
  • Smoke or consume marijuana in any public place or on any federal property.
  • Sell marijuana.
  • Operate a vehicle under the influence of marijuana.

Those who are found in possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute still face serious consequences. They can be fined up to $50,000 and imprisoned for up to five years. In cases involving first-time offenders, the court may be more lenient, offering lesser fines and jail time or a diversion program.

Offenders may also be subject to property forfeiture, which means that law enforcement officials may confiscate any materials and equipment related to the production, cultivation, manipulation, and distribution of marijuana. Notably, any valuable personal items or property obtained with the profits from the sale of or in exchange for marijuana may also be seized, even if they are not related to the drug itself.

Minors and Marijuana in DC

None of the new laws, however, apply to those under the age of 21. It is still illegal for any minor to be in possession of any amount of marijuana. Those found distributing the drug to a minor could face double penalties, and coercing a minor to act on one’s behalf also can result in fines and jail time. Additionally, it is illegal for anyone to possess any amount of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school (elementary, vocational, or secondary), college, junior college, or university, or any other place where it is known that minors frequently gather.

How Our DC Law Firm Can Help

The laws are still relatively new to the area and have many complexities. Our experienced legal team can help you learn more about your rights under the law and work hard to ensure that those rights are protected. Any marijuana charge is a serious matter and can potentially carry severe consequences.

If you are facing marijuana charges in Washington, DC, we may be able to help. Take a moment to fill out our online contact form. A knowledgeable member of our legal team will respond promptly to help you fight your drug charges and move forward with your life today.