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Washington DC just legalized weed for all adults—but it’s locals only


In a move little-noticed by the national media, Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser last week effectively legalized cannabis for all adults in the nation’s capital. 

There’s a catch, though: The mayor’s new rule applies only to legal adult residents of the District. 

In an action meant to protect the District’s licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, who have seen their market undercut by unlicensed weed “gifting” stores, Mayor Bowser signed an emergency declaration (the Medical Marijuana Self-Certification Emergency Amendment Act of 2022) that allows local residents 21 and older to self-certify as medical marijuana patients.

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Washington, DC marijuana laws

The measure had been approved by the DC City Council in late June. 

The new law means that, effective immediately, residents 21 and older no longer need a doctor’s recommendation to receive a medical marijuana card, which is required to access any of DC’s seven licensed dispensaries.

“We have made it a priority over the years to build a more patient-centric medical marijuana program and this legislation builds on those efforts. We know that by bringing more medical marijuana patients into the legal marketplace in a timely manner and doing more to level the playing field for licensed medical marijuana providers, we can protect residents, support local businesses, and provide clarity to the community.” 

—Mayor Bowser, in a statement

Adults seeking to obtain or renew their DC medical marijuana cards can select a “self-certification” option, instead of providing a doctor’s recommendation, online, in person, or by mail. That website is available here

The new rule does not apply to applications for minors under 21. All applicants are still required to provide their social security number, a photo, and proof of DC residency. 

Application fees have been waived until August 18, and for applications submitted up through September 30, the cards are valid for two years. 

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Medical marijuana laws in the United States

DC dispensaries do recognize reciprocity for non-residents seeking medical marijuana, but their card and recommendation must be government-issued; third party services like NuggMD will not be recognized.

The ongoing fight against cannabis gifting 

Cannabis on a game board. (AdobeStock)
Lawmakers in the District are making medical cannabis more accessible to give licensed medical dispensaries a fighting chance against the city’s booming cannabis gifting shops. Time will tell if the temporary move will play out like chess or checkers. (AdobeStock)

Bowser and council members have stated that the bill is part of an ongoing effort to expand medical marijuana access to patients while cracking down on the gray area of gifting shops.

These gifting shops allow patrons to purchase cannabis through a loophole, by purchasing a trinket or non-weed item and receiving the cannabis as a “gift.” A recent effort to crack down on the shops, which are not required to regulate or test their cannabis products, was rejected by the DC council.

A number of states, including Connecticut and New York, have recently passed legislation or issued warnings against gifting operations.

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Connecticut Gov. signs bill to crack down on weed gifting

It remains to be seen if this new access will dissuade consumers and patients from buying from gifting shops, but it’s also only a short-term solution—the bill is only valid for 90 days, while Bowser and the city work on a more permanent approach.

Amelia Williams's Bio Image
Amelia Williams

New York-based freelance cannabis journalist Amelia Williams is a graduate of San Francisco State University's journalism program, and a former budtender. Williams has contributed to the San Francisco Chronicle's GreenState, MG Magazine, Culture Magazine, and Cannabis Now, Kirkus Reviews, and The Bold Italic.

View Amelia Williams's articles