Washington D.C. Marijuana Guide
Washington, D.C. has yet to decriminalize marijuana but legalized medicinal marijuana use in 1998. However, pot laws are nearly as harsh in WDC as in other states that have not decriminalized marijuana possession.
For example, possessing less than 40 grams of pot is only a misdemeanor punishable by a possible six-month jail sentence and a fine of no more than $1000. If the misdemeanor is a person’s first conviction for pot possession, they will have the charge expunged following completion of their jail sentence, probation and payment of fines. Be aware that Washington, D.C, has an unusual mandatory 24-hour jail sentence that is automatically implemented whether you are caught with one gram of pot or one pipe visibly covered with residue.
Selling or growing any amount of pot is a felony in Washington, D. C. If convicted, you could receive a five-year prison sentence and a hefty $50,000 fine. In addition, selling or growing pot within 1000 feet of daycare centers, schools or parks will get those convicted of the crime a higher felony charge and a $100,000 fine.
Paraphernalia possession is a misdemeanor that could land you 30 days in a county jail and a $100 fine. If law enforcement thinks you are “distributing” paraphernalia, you might be looking at six months in jail and a $1000 fine. Being charged with a misdemeanor or felony pot charge could also get your driver’s license revoked for up to two years as well.
Legalization of Medical Marijuana in Washington, D.C.
Although Washington, D.C. Voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 1998 (nearly 70 percent voted “yes” to legalizing medical marijuana), Congress began blocking Initiative 59 as soon as it was voted on and continued to do so until 2010. Amendment Act B18-622 was finally approved unanimously by the D.C. Council in 2010 and signed by mayor Vincent Grey on May 21. After officially signing the bill, it underwent a Congressional review for 30 days. During that time, neither the House or Senate reacted to the bill, which allowed the use of medical marijuana to become legal in Washington, D.C.
Under this measure, individuals suffering from multiple sclerosis, cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS and severe epilepsy are permitted to use pot to relieve symptoms that remain unaffected by traditional prescription medications. However, this list of conditions can be modified by the Washington Board of Health to accommodate other serious medical diseases that may benefit from medical marijuanaThe first medical marijuana dispensary in Washington, D.C. opened in the summer of 2013 to provide pot to about seven or eight patients certified to purchase it for a specific medical condition. Located about one mile from the Capitol Building, the Capital City Care dispensary continues to operate within clear view of several Justice Department agencies as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Even though pot is still illegal under federal laws, the Capital City Care dispensary has not been investigated or visited by the feds.
Washington, D.C. medical marijuana patients do not have to visit a dispensary to obtain their pot. Instead, patients or their caregivers are allowed to grow up to a 60-day supply of pot providing they have been approved by the Department of Health. This 60-day supply is considered to be no more than 24 ounces of usable pot and less than 15 mature plants. Interestingly, Bill 6032 states that medical marijuana patients found to have more than a designated 60-day supply may remain protected under the law if they can prove they need larger amounts in order to properly treat their condition.
An amendment to the original bill—Bill 5798 in 2010—permits physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, osteopathic doctors and even naturopaths to recommend medicinal marijuana as an alternative treatment method to patients suffering from serious diseases. Previously, only licensed medical doctors were allowed to provide medicinal pot applications to patients seeking relief from chronic and “wasting” diseases.
Latest News Regarding Marijuana Legalization in Washington, D.C.
Before recreational marijuana use can be legalized, WDC must first decriminalize pot laws, an initiative that has 10 of 13 council members already agreeing to sign such a bill once it is introduced into legislation. However, these same council members have expressed less enthusiasm for a bill that would legalize pot in Washington, D. C., stating that the goals associated with decriminalizing pot are not the same as those involved with comprehensive marijuana reform.
According to Tommy Wells, a D.C. Council member, the motive to decriminalize drugs primarily concerns the “disproportionate impact on African-Americans” and this demographics high rate of arrests and incarcerations for minor drug offenses. Alternately, Wells states that legalizing pot would promote the message that “pot is OK” and should be legal for adults to use. He further claims that essentially, “legalization is a different initiative”.
If a bill to legalize recreational marijuana use in Washington, D.C. is eventually introduced, it is expected to establish rules and tax laws regulating retail pot shops licensed to sell pot. In addition, such a bill would permit WDC resident to cultivate small amounts of pot within their homes while further designating the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration as the organization responsible for implementing enforcement and licensing requirements governing retail pot shops.
On October 21, 2013, the Washington Times (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/oct/21/legalized-medical-pot-not-popular-in-dc/) published an article discussing the slow start experienced by D.C.’s medical marijuana program by pointing out that only 59 people have enrolled in the program. However, blame for the apparent lack of interest in using medical marijuana is being placed on the city’s stringent policies governing the program by dispensary and cultivation center owners. They cite the fact that eligibility is severely limited to only four primary medical conditions and that both physicians and their patients fear they may be charged for illegal possession of pot by the federal government, not the state. In addition, dispensary owners, patients and some doctors state that the application process is unnecessarily cumbersome and too few doctors are permitted to write prescriptions for medical marijuana in Washington, D.C.
Advocates speaking to the D.C. Council in October want legislation enacted that would supplement the existing eligible health problems with additional medical conditions that involve chronic pain, mental health issues such as anorexia and “wasting” diseases (cachexia).
Video on Medical Marijuana in Washington D.C.
http://doh.dc.gov/service/medical-marijuana-program (contains list of current dispensaries)
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