Weed Law in DC: Initiative 71 Simplified

The legal landscape surrounding marijuana use and possession in Washington, D.C., is determined by Initiative 71, a local law passed in 2014.

However, this initiative left many residents and visitors to the city confused about what is legal and what is not when using weed in D.C.

In this article, we’ll break down the critical points of Initiative 71 and explain the ins and outs of consuming weed legally in the city, including where you can enjoy it and the potential legal consequences of breaking the law.

Let’s get started! 

Initiative 71: A Summary of DC Weed Law

Initiative 71, also known as the “Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Initiative of 2014,” is a local law that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use in Washington D.C. 

This initiative was passed by a majority of D.C. voters in November 2014 and went into effect on February 26, 2015. 

To enjoy weed in DC, take a closer look at the key provisions of Initiative 71, including what is legal and illegal under the law.

What Initiative 71 Legalized

Initiative 71 legalized possessing and cultivating small amounts of marijuana for personal use in Washington, D.C. 

Specifically, it made it legal for individuals 21 years of age and older to:

  • Possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use.
  • Cultivate up to six marijuana plants, with no more than three mature, flowering plants, in their primary residence.

Note: the possession and cultivation of marijuana remain illegal under federal law, even though it is legal under D.C. law. 

However, the federal government has generally chosen not to enforce federal marijuana laws in states and jurisdictions where it’s legal.

Possession Limits and Penalties

Possessing more than two ounces of marijuana is considered a criminal offense and is subject to penalties

While possessing small amounts is legal, smoking or consuming marijuana in public and smoking marijuana in a vehicle, whether in motion or parked, is still illegal and punishable by fines.

Penalties for possession of more than two ounces of marijuana may include the following:

  • Fines
  • Jail time
  • Possession of over two ounces is considered a criminal offense and carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Smoking or consuming marijuana in public is punishable by a fine of $25.


Cultivating at Home: The Legal Restrictions

Residents 21 years of age can cultivate up to six marijuana plants, with no more than three mature, flowering plants, in their primary residence. 

This allows individuals to grow their marijuana for personal use rather than having to purchase it from the illegal market.

Federal vs. Local Law

Even though marijuana use is legal in D.C., it can still impact drug testing, leading to negative consequences, like losing a job. 

So, if you want to enjoy weed in the state, consider your employer’s drug testing policies and the potential consequences of testing positive for marijuana. 

Additionally, it’s important to know that federal laws and regulations may affect drug testing. Also, some tests are more sensitive than others and may detect marijuana or edibles for a longer period of time.

How to Consume Weed in DC Legally

While Initiative 71 legalized the possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for personal use in Washington D.C, it did not legalize the sale or purchase of the drug. This means that individuals may be wondering how to legally buy weed in Washington DC

Nevertheless, this section will examine the various ways to legally purchase and consume marijuana in D.C., as well as some tips on how to consume weed safely and responsibly.

Legal Methods of Purchasing Marijuana

These are legal options to obtain marijuana in D.C.

Weed Delivery Services


A legal way to acquire marijuana in D.C. is through weed delivery services like DMV 42 Zero. This service complies with D.C. laws and offers a safe and convenient way to obtain marijuana. 

Some delivery services may also require customers to show proof of age, typically a government-issued ID, to confirm that they are 21 or older.

Important Note: Since marijuana is not legally sold in D.C., DMV 42 Zero has found a way to comply with the law for residents and tourists to obtain marijuana while complying with D.C. laws –– offering marijuana as a “gift” with the purchase of a small item, such as a t-shirt or frisbee, or as a thank you for a donation.



To purchase marijuana for medical use, you must show your medical marijuana card as proof that you are using it for medicinal reasons. 

Alternatively, you can visit I71-compliant gift shops in D.C. to purchase recreational marijuana as a gift without the need for a medical card.

Safe and Responsible Consumption

To ensure that you have a positive experience and avoid any legal or health issues when consuming marijuana:

  • Always consume marijuana in the privacy of your own home or a designated consumption area.
  • Be aware of the laws and regulations regarding public consumption, as it’s illegal to consume marijuana in public spaces.
  • Start with a low dose, especially if you’re new to consuming marijuana or trying a new product.
  • Be aware of the potential effects of marijuana, including impaired judgment and coordination, and never drive or operate heavy machinery while under the influence.
  • Avoid consuming marijuana if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a history of mental health issues.
  • Always follow the instructions and dosing recommendations on any products you purchase.
  • Store marijuana products safely and out of reach of children and pets.
  • Never consume marijuana on someone else’s property without their permission.
  • Be mindful of the smell and try to limit the odor that may cause inconvenience to others.


Navigating D.C.’s Laws as a Tourist

To fully enjoy your stay in D.C. and avoid any legal issues, familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations surrounding marijuana in the city:

  • Consuming marijuana in federal properties such as parks, monuments, and museums is illegal, even if it’s legal under D.C. law.
  • Research and choose a legal and reputable delivery service or gift shop if you plan to purchase marijuana in D.C.
  • Be aware of the laws regarding possession when traveling, as possession limits and penalties may differ from state to state.


Wrapping up

Although buying and selling marijuana is illegal in D.C., you can still enjoy it through legal methods, such as receiving it as a gift or donation or through compliant delivery services –– like DMV 42 Zero. 

Nevertheless, just because there’s a loophole that allows D.C. residents and tourists to enjoy weed in the state, always be mindful not to violate the weed laws in D.C.

For those looking to explore the marijuana scene in D.C., check out our upcoming blog on the top weed events in D.C. for 2023.


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