Washington District of Columbia: Overview of the Marijuana Law

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Julie Gardener

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District of Columbia​

SUMMARY: Amendment Act B18-622 "Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Amendment Act of 2010" -- Approved 13-0 by the Council of the District of Columbia on May 4, 2010; signed by the Mayor on May 21, 2010. On Monday, July 26, members of Congress allowed the measure to become law without federal interference.

The law amends the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative, a 1998 municipal ballot measure which garnered 69 percent of the vote yet was never implemented. Until 2010, D.C. city lawmakers had been barred from instituting the measure because of a Congressional ban on the issue. Congress finally lifted the ban in 2009.

Under the law, D.C. Health Department officials will oversee the creation of as many as eight facilities to dispense medical cannabis to authorized patients. Medical dispensaries would be limited to growing no more than 95 plants on site at any one time.

Both non-profit and for-profit organizations will be eligible to operate the dispensaries.

Qualifying D.C. patients will be able to obtain medical cannabis at these facilities, but will not be permitted under the law to grow their own medicine.

APPROVED CONDITIONS: Patients diagnosed with the following illnesses are afforded legal protection under this act: HIV or AIDS; glaucoma; conditions characterized by severe and persistent muscle spasms, such as multiple sclerosis; cancer; or any other condition, as determined by rulemaking, that is: "(i) chronic or long-lasting; "(ii) debilitating or interferes with the basic functions of life; and (iii) A serious medical condition for which the use of medical marijuana is beneficial: (I) That cannot be effectively treated by any ordinary medical or surgical measure; "(II) For which there is scientific evidence that the use of medical marijuana is likely to be significantly less addictive than the ordinary medical treatment for that condition.

POSSESSION/CULTIVATION: The maximum amount of medical marijuana that any qualifying patient may possess at any moment is 2 ounces of dried medical marijuana, though this limit is subject to revision by the Mayor. Patients cannot grow their own medicine.

• 2 oz dried; limits on other forms to be determined

A separate provision enacted as part of the 2011 D.C. budget calls for the retail sales of medical cannabis to be subject to the District’s six percent sales tax rate. Low-income will be allowed to purchase medical marijuana at a greatly reduced cost under the plan.

It will likely be several months before Health officials establish a patient registry and/or begin accepting applications from the public to operate the City’s medical marijuana production and distribution centers.

The medical use provisions in the District of Columbia do not include reciprocity provisions protecting visitors from other medical use states.

CAREGIVERS: Yes. Caregiver is a person designated by a qualifying patient as the person authorized to possess, obtain from a dispensary, dispense, and assist in the administration of medical marijuana. The caregiver must be 18 years of age or older. The caregiver must be registered with the Department as the qualifying patient's caregiver. A caregiver may only serve one qualifying patient at a time. D.C. Act 13-138 §2 (3) (2010).

CONTACT INFORMATION: DC City Council Committee on Health or DC Department of Health

Also see Safe Access DC

Source: NORML.org

Be informed and be well.
District of Columbia Marijuana Penalties​


♦ Any amount - misdemeanor Incarceration 6 months Fine $1,000

♦ Eligible for probation with first conviction, dismissal of charges upon completion

Sale or Cultivation

♦ Any amount - felony Incarceration 5 years Fine $50,000

♦ Within 1000 feet of school or other specified area - felony Incarceration double penalty Fine double penalty

♦ Sale to minor - felony Incarceration double penalty Fine double penalty

Miscellaneous (paraphernalia, license suspensions, drug tax stamps, etc...)

♦ Paraphernalia possession - misdemeanor Incarceration 30 days Fine $100

♦ Paraphernalia sale - misdemeanor Incarceration 6 months Fine $1,000

♦ Paraphernalia sale to a minor - felony Incarceration 8 years Fine $15,000

♦ Any conviction can result in suspension of driver's license, 6 months - 2 years.


Possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. First time offenders are eligible for probation and dismissal of the charges upon successful completion of the probation contract.

The cultivation, sale or delivery of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. If the distribution occurs within 1000 feet of a school, pool, playground, arcade, library, youth center, or public housing or if the distribution is made to a minor the penalties can be doubled.

Upon conviction of a drug offense, the offender's driver's license can be suspended from six months to two years.

The possession of paraphernalia is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $100 fine. The sale of paraphernalia is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 unless the sale is made to a minor, in which case the penalty increases to a possible eight years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

Conditional release: The state allows conditional release or alternative or diversion sentencing for people facing their first prosecutions. Usually, conditional release lets a person opt for probation rather than trial. After
successfully completing probation, the individual's criminal record does not reflect the charge.

Medical marijuana: This state has medical marijuana laws enacted. Modern research suggests that cannabis is a valuable aid in the treatment of a wide range of clinical applications. These include pain relief, nausea, spasticity, glaucoma, and movement disorders. Marijuana is also a powerful appetite stimulant and emerging research suggests that marijuana's medicinal properties may protect the body against some types of malignant tumors, and are neuroprotective.

Warning: The information contained in this entire above report is for informational purposes only. Individuals are encouraged to confirm their state's laws before engaging in any particular behavior, or before going to court without a lawyer. Marijuana laws and penalties change rapidly and are enforced and interpreted differently even in the same legal jurisdiction. Please consult a criminal defense lawyer if you have been busted or if you want to know how a particular conduct might be punished. If you spot an error or have information that should be included please let us know.

Be informed and be well.

See Washington D.C.: Medical Marijuana Law Overview and State Fines/Penalties for more up to date information regarding state laws and penalties.
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