D.C. Legalization of Marijuana


Editor’s Note: Some readers have made us aware of this article’s incorrect wording. In print, we published that “one less-noted outcome of the recent election cycle was the legalization of the use of recreational marijuana in D.C.” That implies that the D.C. legalization was a recent event. However, Initiative 71 was implemented in 2015. This article focuses on the contemporary application of that initiative by the citizens of D.C. rather than the passing of the legislation. We apologize for any confusion this mix-up may have caused.

One thing which has not been covered as much in comparison to other D.C. ongoings is the legalization of the use of recreational marijuana in D.C. This new legislation raises questions of how the District will handle the recent change in legal drug use.

It is important to note that the passed legislation legalizes only the use of marijuana while buying and selling is still a crime in D.C. The ideal workaround in the minds of legislators is that those who plan on using the drug will be growing their own. The act of growing Marijuana was legalized in DC in February of 2015 under Initiative 71, which states that citizens may “grow no more than six cannabis plants with 3 or fewer being mature, flowering plants, within the person’s principal residence.”

Others, however, noted a small loophole in the legislation- receiving marijuana as a gift should still count as permissible, although larger-scale “gifting” schemes are already being shut down. A Massachusetts man has been arrested for selling a $325 plastic bag on “Craigslist,” which came with the “free gift” of 27.8 grams of marijuana, according to The Boston Globe. Laws regarding the use of recreational marijuana are very similar between Massachusetts and D.C, but it seems anyone hoping to follow suit in creating such an online market for the D.C area is out of luck, as the practice has already run into trouble. The man selling the bags has found himself in a legal gray area, and may soon find himself facing charges.  

In an interview with The Boston Globe on the matter, Boston District Attorney David Sullivan stated, “it is clear that the Craigslist ads for gifting marijuana are illegal. The ‘gifting’ of marijuana for a $300 empty plastic baggie is a complete ruse… Unfortunately, law enforcement authorities are likely to see an increase in end-around to the new state law.” Only time will tell if the same outcome will occur in the District.

Perhaps the most notable news to come from the legalization of marijuana in the District is that the group who lobbied for the passing of this law celebrated its success by rolling joints and passing them out- for free- before President Trump’s inauguration. The group, DCMJ, rolled over 5,000 free joints and passed out over 20,000 cannabis seeds to DC residents, according to TIME magazine. DCMJ co-founder Nikolas Schiller told TIME magazine that the group informed all recipients of the free joints to light them at exactly 4 minutes and 20 seconds into President Trump’s speech, hoping “the smell can go around and people can know ‘oh those people are demonstrating the importance of cannabis legalization.'” It is unclear at the present time whether or not the group was successful in their attempt to catch the President’s attention, as he has not commented on his stance regarding the issue since the election.

In fact, President Trump’s views on the various uses of marijuana- recreational or medical- have changed significantly over time. In a late 2015 rally reported by The Washington Post, Trump said of recreational marijuana “ I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state,” and that in regards to America’s war on drugs, “you have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.”

Although President Trump has already acted on several campaign promises with executive orders, we cannot predict what may happen during his presidency in regards to legalizing marijuana as he has yet to make a firm commitment to one side of the issue.

Maryland may soon be asking very similar questions, as Democratic lawmakers plan to put the issue on the ballot in 2018. Putting the issue on the ballot is expected to draw a higher percentage of democratic voters to the polls, potentially unseating Republican Governor Larry Hogan. Governor Hogan declined to comment on the matter, according to The Baltimore Sun.


  1. I’m afraid that you’re a bit confused, Georgie.

    D.C. legalized the possession, cultivation, & gifting of marijuana in 2014, & had no marijuana items on the recent 2016 ballot. Nine other states, however, did.

    And the marijuana given away at Trump’s inauguration wasn’t to celebrate recent victories; rather, it was meant to protest the nomination of staunch marijuana prohibitionist, Jeff Sessions for the position of Attorney General.

    Here’s more info: https://www.mpp.org/states/district-of-columbia/


  2. Important to note: Like the Prohibitionist Attorney Generals that preceded him, Über-Prohibitionist Sessions thankfully has very few avenues to affect change in this area.

    Because of the anti-commandeering doctrine, etc., the Feds can’t make states recriminalize mj or make local officers enforce federal prohibition, so patients in 29 mmj states & adults in 8 rec mj states will always be able to possess & use (& in some states, grow & gift) mj.

    The Feds can, however, shut down all state-regulated, commercial mj activity & force patients & consumers back into the black market – which means more unregulated growing that’ll end up across state lines & in the hands of minors, & less patient access to more specialized & refined, non-psychoactive forms of mmj (the kinds most beneficial to sick children, etc.).

    In other words, Prohibitionists like Sessions can only make the situation worse by any metric – even their own.

    “[A] federal crackdown would backfire by producing an atomized, anarchic, state-legalized, but unregulated marijuana market that federal drug enforcers could neither contain nor force the states to contain.”