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Washington, DC marijuana laws

Current legality status


Cannabis is legal under state law for adults 21+.

Recreational is legal in Washington, DC, however, the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes remains illegal. It is only legal for adults 21 and over to possess and grow marijuana and to transfer without sale up to one oz. of flower to another adult.

Medical marijuana is also legal and there are seven medical dispensaries in Washington, DC which medical patients can access with a licensed medical card. 

Possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for recreational use is legal for people 21 and older. So is possession of paraphernalia. Residents may cultivate up to six plants, three of which may be mature. People may give away up to one ounce of marijuana, but not sell it. 

Medical marijuana use is also legal. It was officially legalized in 1998 following the passage of Initiative 59, but a series of legislative challenges prevented the establishment of a functioning medical marijuana program until 2013. Patients can now possess up to four ounces of marijuana and may grow up to six plants (under the 2014 legislation). 

In 2020, residents of Washington DC passed the Entheogenic Plants and Fungus Policy Act also known as Initiative 81. This policy change makes certain psychedelic (also known as entheogenic) drug crimes the “lowest enforcement priority” of the District’s Metropolitan Police Department.

This policy change does not make psychedelics legal in the region, but does require police officers to place less comparative interest into the investigation and arrest of those possessing, growing, or using psychedelics for therapy.

Washington, DC recreational marijuana laws

Recreational marijuana became legal in Washington, DC in 2015 following the success of Initiative 71, the Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Initiative of 2014. It passed with 64.87% approval

The legislation allows adults 21 and over to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, as well as paraphernalia. They may also grow up to six plants, three of which may be mature. Up to one ounce of marijuana may be given away, but it may not be sold. 

Marijuana had previously been decriminalized by legislation passed earlier in 2014. The penalty for possession of up to one ounce was reduced to $25.

It is worth noting that some of Washington, DC is actually federal land and because marijuana is still federally illegal, consumers may face federal penalties if caught with marijuana in these areas.

Sale of marijuana for recreational purposes is illegal, but some delivery services have attempted to skirt the law by selling other products and giving marijuana away as a gift with purchase. This has been sporadically successful but some operators have faced legal consequences. 

Washington, DC medical marijuana laws

In 1998, the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative (Initiative 59), passed with 69% support. It legalized the use of medical marijuana for a wide variety of debilitating conditions. 

However, the swiftly passed Barr Amendment proposed by Georgia Congressman Bob Barr (R) blocked DC from implementing the program. The amendment, tacked on to the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, made it illegal to “conduct any ballot initiative which seeks to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative.” The amendment was overturned in 2009.

In 2010, the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Amendment Act was passed. It clarified the provisions of the 1998 legislation, notably establishing regulations for dispensaries. Possession limits were set at two ounces for medical patients. The first dispensary did not open until 2013.

The Medical Marijuana Expansion Emergency Amendment Act of 2014 expanded eligibility for a medical card to include all conditions that a physician feels may benefit from use of medical marijuana.

In 2015, recreational marijuana legislation allowed patients to cultivate up to six plants, three of which may be mature. Possession limits were raised to four ounces in 2016 per a proposal by Mayor Muriel Bowser.

The Medical Marijuana Reciprocity Amendment Act of 2015, which took effect in 2017, allowed patients from other jurisdictions that had medical marijuana programs equivalent to Washington, DC’s to use their cards at DC dispensaries. The number of eligible states was expanded to cardholders from all states with medical programs in 2019.

In 2020, a temporary order was issued that allowed medical patients to have marijuana delivered to their homes due the COVID-19 pandemic.

Washington, DC qualifying conditions for medical marijuana

The Medical Marijuana Expansion Emergency Amendment Act of 2014 stipulates that any condition a physician feels may benefit from medical marijuana is eligible.

How to get a medical marijuana card in Washington, DC

The first step in getting a card in Washington, DC is to consult with a physician, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or dentist. These health professionals can issue recommendations to DC residents that will allow them to legally purchase medical marijuana from dispensaries in the District. Patients may apply online here.

As part of the recommendation process, you’ll be given a recommendation number. With that in hand, submit a patient application to the Department of Health. The application consists of a headshot, photo ID, and two forms of proof that you’re a DC resident. There’s also a $100 application fee, though low-income patients may qualify for a reduced fee of $25. 

For more information, see the Health Department’s patient checklist.

Does Washington, DC accept out-of-state medical cards? 

As of 2019, patients from any state with a medical marijuana program may use their cards at a DC dispensary.

When does my Washington, DC medical card expire?

Medical marijuana registrations are good for one year, a communications official at the DC Department of Health told Leafly by email.

Washington, DC marijuana growing laws

Per the Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Initiative of 2014, anyone over the age of 21 may cultivate up to six plants total, with only three in a mature stage at any one time. People sharing a space may cultivate up to 12 plants, six of which may be mature, for the entire household.

Washington, DC public consumption laws

Public consumption may result in a misdemeanor conviction, up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500

Technically, because some portions of Washington, DC are federal land, penalties may vary. 

In practice, public consumption will result in a $25 fine. Alternatively, offenders may choose to go to court per 2018 policy recommendations issued by the mayor’s office.

Washington, DC cannabis DUI laws

By driving in DC, there is implied consent to a chemical test. If a driver refuses to submit to a test, they shall be informed that their license will be revoked for 12 months. Evidence of a refusal to submit to a test shall be admissible as evidence of guilt in a court of law.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) that may be administered by a trained Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) include breath test instrument, urine test, and blood test (must be administered by a medical professional at the request of law enforcement).


  • First offense: Incarceration for no more than 180 days, $1,000 fine, or both, six-month suspended driver’s license
  • Second offense: 10-day minimum incarceration up to one year, $2,500 to $5,000 fine, or both, and one-year suspended driver’s license
  • Third offense: 12-day minimum incarceration up to one year, $2,500 to $10,000 fine, or both, and two-year suspended driver’s license
  • Fourth and subsequent offenses: 45-day minimum incarceration (plus an additional 30 days for each subsequent offense) up to one year, $2,500 to $10,000 fine, or both

For more information, visit the DC Metropolitan Police Department and General Order 502-02 and 50–2206.13.—Penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol or a drug.

Washington, DC cannabis testing regulations

The District’s medical cannabis must go through a rigorous set of tests that look for moisture content, water activity, terpene and cannabinoid levels (THC, THCA, CBD, CBDA, CBN), foreign matter contamination, microbial and/or mycotoxin contamination, heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury), pesticide and/or fertilizer residue, residual solvents, and homogeneity (for edibles).

Common questions about marijuana legalization in Washington, DC

When did Washington, DC legalize?

Recreational marijuana was legalized in 2014. Medical marijuana was technically legalized in 1998, but cannabis dispensaries were not operational until 2013. 

Are dabs legal in Washington, DC?

Concentrates are legally sold by dispensaries in Washington, DC. Recreational legislation does not explicitly mention dabs so caution is advised.

How many recreational dispensaries are in Washington, DC?

Zero. Although recreational marijuana is legal in DC, it is illegal to sell—only possession, cultivation, and transferring without sale up to one oz. of flower is legal. However, there are seven medical dispensaries in Washington, DC.

Are drugs legal in Washington, DC?

Aside from marijuana, no.

Keep up with the latest news about legalization in Washington, DC

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Post last updated Sept. 7, 2020