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Washington D.C. Prepares for Legalization Despite Threats From Congress

Calling all residents of the District! If you voted in the mid-term election last November, you’re probably one of the nearly 70% of residents who voted “YES” to legalize marijuana in the nation’s capital (unless you’re one of those people who really dislike fun and joy and happiness and progress).

In the months since the election, the whole country has watched curiously and with avid fascination as the tug-o-war between Congress, the President, the District officials, and D.C.’s cannabis advocacy groups has gone back and forth in a “Will-they-or-won’t-they” battle of legislation. With the hours counting down until February 26th and the stroke of midnight being when legalization will officially go into effect, DC officials, including the police chief, sat down to outline a plan of agreed-upon rules for law enforcement and for citizens to abide by until further notice (and without congressional intervention).

Here’s what you need to know as a responsible adult recreational cannabis consumer in the District of Columbia:

  • Be over 21 years of age! I cannot stress this enough. Be an adult. Pretty please.
  • You may possess up to two (2) ounces of cannabis flower.
  • You may grow up to six (6) plants, of which no more than three (3) may be mature (on private property).
  • You may give away up to one ounce of cannabis (no cash exchange and no underage giveaways).
  • Do not consume cannabis in public – you can and will be arrested.
  • Do not drive under the influence of cannabis.
  • Do not use, possess, or cultivate cannabis if you are under 21.
  • Be careful of possession on federal grounds – federal law enforcement officers can still arrest you for the possession of cannabis on federal property (such as the National Mall).

Unfortunately, as of today, Congressional Republicans Representatives Jason Chaffetz and Mark Meadows have been sending a very “terse” letter to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser informing her that by allowing the recreational marijuana law to take effect, she will be in violation of federal law, citing the Anti-Deficiency Act, a law related to the use of funding without authorization. Mayor Bowser responded that she is prepared to implement and enforce Initiative 71 in the District of Columbia, saying, “We believe that we’re on very strong legal ground…we believe we’re acting lawfully.”

According to Mayor Bowser and a statement from from District police, recreational cannabis possession will officially be legal at 12:01 am this Thursday, February 26, 2015. If all goes well, the District of Columbia will make history by legalizing the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis in the nation’s capital.

However, if the House Republicans make good on their threats, Mayor Bowser may end up in federal court and raise this fight to a whole new level: the Supreme Court.

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Lisa Rough

Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.

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