After many hurdles, the marijuana legalization amendment approved by voters in November 2014 went into effect in the first minute of Thursday February 26.
Although there will not be any legally-operating recreational marijuana dispensaries in the capital city of the United States, there are many changes that residents should understand to prevent any misunderstandings.
Under the new law, adults aged 21 and older may legally:
- Possess up to 2 ounces of cannabis at any time.
- Use marijuana on private property.
- Gift (without payment) up to 1 ounce of cannabis to another adult.
- Cultivate up to 6 plants in a secure location, no more than 3 of which can be mature.
The legalization amendment did not alter the ban on public usage, however, nor driving under the influence. Any person caught using marijuana in public or driving after using will still risk legal trouble. Any person caught trading marijuana for money, instead of ‘gifting,’ will also still risk prosecution.
What are the penalties?
- An individual arrested for consuming marijuana in public will face up to 60 days in jail or a $500 fine.
- First time offenders convicted of selling marijuana will face 6 months in jail or a $1,000 fine.
- Restaurant and business owners that allow patrons to use marijuana will risk losing their business license and certificate of occupancy.
On February 24, Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted the infographic below to help simplify the new laws for District residents. Even more useful tools and a list of frequently asked questions to help residents of Washington D.C. understand the new laws can be found on mayor.dc.gov, and they are printed below.
Washington D.C. politicians have officially mobilized efforts to move forward with establishing a regulatory body to license dispensaries and oversee a retail marijuana market in the District, despite the fact that Congress says no. In less than 30 days, voters in Washington D.C. will know whether Congress will block the marijuana legalization measure or allow it pass.
Last November, voters in the District of Columbia approved Initiative 71, legalizing cannabis possession, cultivation and transfer for adults aged 21 and older. Although initiative 71 effectively legalized marijuana, it did not include provisions to establish and regulate a retail marijuana market. It did, however, leave the option open for the local council to establish a system for regulating and licensing recreational dispensaries within the District.
Councilman, David Grosso, had already started with presenting legislation and earning committee approval to move forward with this process when certain members of Congress opposed, flexed, and essentially blocked the creation of the retail market in D.C. This was accomplished by attaching a rider to the federal spending bill which banned the use of federal funds and local fees to establish the regulatory system.
At first, it appeared as though the hands of politicians in D.C. had been tied. Then, in the first week of 2015, Washington D.C.’s new Mayor, Muriel Bowser, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” anchor, Chuck Todd, that it will be important to respect the will of the voters and defend legal marijuana in the District. In the same interview, Bowser said that her team would be sending legislation up the chain soon, but she did not specify a plan of action.
The legislation Bowser spoke of, to tax and regulate cannabis in the same manner as alcohol, sponsored by Grosso and four others, was filed just days later. Grosso told U.S. News that he feels confident in this decision to introduce this bill, and elaborated in the statement,
“I think we’re on the path to seeing this bill enacted. By moving this bill forward, we’re directly confronting Congress.”
This kind of defiance is relatively unexplored territory in the District. Washington D.C. was originally established to serve as the seat of the Federal Government, and therefore was not given statehood. As more and more people with voting rights, who have nothing to do with government operations make the District their home, however, it seems to be moving away from what it once was. In the same “Meet the Press” interview, Mayor Bowser spoke of plans to establish a full democracy for the people of Washington D.C., and this just may be the beginning of her plans for change.
photo credit: Forbes
The voters of Washington D.C. approved the marijuana legalization amendment, Initiative 71, with overwhelming support last election day. Then Congress interfered by attaching a rider to the federal spending bill which disallows the use of federal funds or local fees to establish a regulatory system for cannabis retailers and cultivators within the District. Essentially, Congress has permitted decriminalization, but has blocked the creation of a legal retail market.
The new Mayor of Washington D.C., Muriel Bowser, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” anchor Chuck Todd that she plans to defend the voters of her District, and will explore all options in doing so. When asked if she plans to challenge Congress on the issue of blocking full implementation of Initiative 71, Mayor Bowser said,
“We want to respect the will of the D.C. voters, and we think that initiative 71 was self-enacting. … We want to work with our Congress and we want the will of the residents of D.C. to be enforced.”
When Todd repeated the question, “Are you going to sue Congress over this?” Mayor Bowser responded,
“We are going to explore every option to get our law enforced, so that the chief [of police] can also be very clear with the officers of what is legal in the District and what is not.”
Mayor Bowser was vague about her exact plan of action, but she made it clear that she plans to stand up for the voters of Washington D.C.. She also discussed her vision for Washington D.C. to establish full democracy and statehood separate from the Federal Government. The District was originally established to serve as the seat of the Federal Government, but now many people with voting rights live within the District who have absolutely nothing to do with government operations. It seems to be moving away from what it once was, and Mayor Bowser seems to have a plan for change.
Initiative 71, as it stands currently in the District, allows adults aged twenty-one years or older may possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use. Of-age adults may also cultivate up to six cannabis plants in a personal residence with three or fewer of those plants being mature. Transferring up to one ounce of marijuana, without payment, between adults is also legal. As is, possessing and selling paraphernalia for growing, using or processing cannabis.
photo credit: Washingtonian