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There are currently 25 states who have enacted legislation for legalized medical marijuana. Though the specific laws in each state differ, it shows a trend towards national legalization. Furthermore, the Federal Government has also been slowly shifting its stance, vowing to use Federal resources only for marijuana trafficking, not possession.

Moreover, while these are very positive signs for proponents of legalization, there is perhaps a larger trend to be excited about: the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Currently, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC are the only places in the United States to permit recreational use. In this article, we will examine the legislation in Washington DC and the current state of DC marijuana.

Medical to Recreational in DC

In 1998, Washington DC passed Initiative 59 which legalized the use of medical marijuana in the city. Due to Congress, this initiative was blocked until 2009, and the first legal sale of medical marijuana in the city occurred in 2013.

On March 4, 2013, the city council voted in favor of decriminalizing cannabis and following several campaigns both in favor and against the legalization of recreational marijuana, Initiative 71 was passed. Over 65% approved of the legislation when put to a vote on November 4, 2014. It was a huge victory for those in favor of legalization, but the battle was not over.


In December of last year, Congress approved an omnibus spending bill that included an end to the Federal ban on medical marijuana. However, the bill also held a rider that targeted Initiative 71 directly.

After some political wrangling and a congressional review period, Washington DC became one of only two places in the United States where it was legal to grow and share recreational marijuana privately. The congressional review period ended at 12:01 am on February 26, 2015.


The law is not, however, a free-for-all. It allows adults aged 21 or older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana. They may also grow up to six plants, and gift up to one ounce of pot to another legal adult. Currently, the sales of marijuana for recreational use is still banned.

This differs from Colorado because DC's initiative process does not provide an allowance for spending mandates. Commercialization would require such mandates, so sales remain illegal.

Moving Forward with DC Marijuana

DC is certainly a frontrunner in the legalization movement due to the passing of this legislation. The legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana is becoming more and more prevalent, and sweeping changes nationwide are likely to occur in the coming years.

As of now, DC is the only area east of the Mississippi that allows for marijuana use and possession, but there is no way to know how long it will remain that way. Washington DC recreational cannabis laws are an interesting subject.

*Update 2021 Washington DC Recreational Cannabis Laws

Cannabis in Washington D.C. is legal for both medical use and recreational use for possession, personal use, cultivation, transportation and gifting, but not for sale, following an affirmative vote by the residents on a 2014 ballot initiative. Washington DC now has recreational cannabis as well as medical cannabis legal throughout the area.

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