In Washington, D.C., cannabis is legal for recreational and medical uses. Though the drug was fully legalized in the District following a 2014 ballot referendum, the United States Congress exercises oversight over the government of the District of Columbia, preventing the local government from regulating cannabis sales like other jurisdictions with authority derived from a U.S. state.
Initiative 59 was a 1998 Washington, D.C. voter-approved ballot initiative that sought to legalize medical cannabis. The short title of the initiative was “Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998”. Though the initiative passed with 69% of the vote in November 1998, its implementation was delayed by Congress’s passage of the Barr Amendment, which prohibited DC from using its funds in support of the program. This Amendment delayed the start of the medical marijuana program until it was effectively overturned in 2009, with the first DC customer legally purchasing medical cannabis at a dispensary in the District in 2013.
In May 2010, the Council of the District of Columbia passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana. The Congress did not overrule the measure within the 30-legislative-day period, and as a result medical cannabis became legal on January 1, 2011. Though carefully regulated through a lengthy permitting process, dispensaries began opening and cultivation centers were allowed.
Initiative 71 was a Washington, D.C. voter-approved ballot initiative that legalized the recreational use of cannabis. The short title of the initiative was Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014.
Under the legalization measure that went into effect in 2015, persons over the age of 21 in D.C. may possess up to two ounces of marijuana, grow up to three mature and three immature marijuana plants in their homes, and transfer up to one ounce of marijuana to another individual. Drug paraphernalia, such as bongs, were also legalized.