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Initiative 71: Everything you need to know

Updated: Dec 26, 2022

Are you interested in learning about DC's Initiative 71? Everything you need to know, including what is permitted and not, gifting that complies with Initiative 71 (I71), and more, will be presented to you in this article.


What is Initiative 71


On the November 4, 2014, ballot, a measure to legalize marijuana in Washington DC, known as Initiative 71 or the Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014, was put to vote in the District of Columbia, and it was successful in receiving voter approval.

On February 26, 2015, the legislation went into effect in the District of Columbia, making the following activities legal for anybody over the age of 21:

  • Possess no more than two ounces of marijuana

  • Grow as many as six marijuana plants at their primary residence

  • Use cannabis on private property

  • Transfer without payment up to an ounce of marijuana to another adult over 21.

Possess no more than two ounces of marijuana


Adults over the age of 21 are permitted to have no more than two ounces of marijuana for personal use.

The provision of the law relating to possession will not be enforced on any property that is within the federal government's jurisdiction. Regardless of what local authorities make claims, the federal government continues to treat cannabis as a Schedule I substance, which means that possession of the drug remains a criminal offense.

Remember that the federal government owns nearly 30% of the city's property, with any of the federal police units keeping watch over it. These plots may be as inconspicuous as the triangular parks around your area or as intricately woven into the urban landscape as Dupont Circle and Logan Circle. It will continue to be against the law to possess marijuana on that property.

Additional restrictions on drug usage apply to persons residing in federally subsidized public housing compared to other types of housing. Federal law enforcement may make an arrest at a public housing complex if they find evidence of marijuana cultivation or possession.

Carrying marijuana over state borders is a very serious violation of the law, which should really go without saying but will be stated here nevertheless.


Grow as many as six marijuana plants at their primary residence


Adults over the age of 21 are permitted to cultivate at most six marijuana plants in their homes, with no more than three plants allowed to reach maturity at any one time. Adults are permitted to possess whatever amount of cannabis cultivated at the same place by the same plants. In a single home or rental unit, adults may cultivate no more than a total of 12 plants, with no more than six of those plants reaching maturity.

You are not allowed to cultivate your plants in areas that are visible to the general public. This includes areas such as your front yard, front porch, or balcony.

Growing your cannabis at home is a smart move for anybody who wants to experience the benefits of this plant without running afoul of the law. However, one drawback is that growth requires a significant amount of patience, time, and investment in pricey growing equipment. This is a dissatisfaction that recreational users have in common with one another.


Use cannabis on private property


It is allowed to use marijuana, however, this privilege is limited to private homes and does not extend to public spaces such as backyards or front porches. If you are a tenant, your landlord has the right to forbid you from cultivating, possessing, or consuming cannabis on their property for any reason. The use of marijuana will be prohibited in all public locations, including pubs and dining establishments.

If smoking is only permitted in private dwellings, does this indicate that marijuana parties are acceptable? Subject to current regulations on noise and occupancy levels, there is no ban on the use of marijuana in the same dwelling by numerous adults of at least 21 years of age. Never should there be more than two ounces of marijuana per adult.


Transfer up to an ounce of marijuana to another adult over 21


It is legal for those who are at least 21 years old to give up to an ounce of marijuana to another adult who is also at least 21 years old. Any and all transfers are to be done without payment, and sales are not permitted under any circumstances.


What will the law continue to prohibit?


However, notwithstanding the passage of Initiative 71, the following actions continue to be illegal for anybody to take:

  • To have more than two ounces of marijuana in your possession;

  • To use marijuana in any form, including smoking it, in a public place or any other location to which the general public has access, such as a restaurant, a bar, or a coffee shop;

  • To sell another individual whatever quantity of marijuana you want;

  • Under the influence of marijuana, you must not operate a motor vehicle or watercraft.

Can a person under 21 years old buy weed in DC?


It is against the law for anybody under the age of 21 to possess any quantity of marijuana. The police will take control of any marijuana that is discovered in the possession of someone who is less than 21 years old. The individual might also be arrested if they have more than two ounces of marijuana on their person.


Why is it legal in DC to own and grow cannabis but not to sell it?


A short time after Initiative 71 was successful, Congress included a provision to their spending plan that prevented the District of Columbia from legalizing the sale of cannabis. Andy Harris, a congressman from Maryland, presented a provision that is often known as the Harris Rider. This measure prevented authorities in the District of Columbia from creating any legal framework for the sale of marijuana or the taxing of it. Therefore, although it is allowed to possess cannabis and to grow cannabis in the District of Columbia, it is not allowed to sell cannabis. In spite of this, there are forward-thinking individuals who were able to imagine a future in which cannabis is not illegal, and as a result, the landscape of cannabis "gifting" in DC was formed.


What is Initiative 71 compliant gifting?


Initiative 71 is among the most perplexing cannabis laws in the United States. Both the medicinal and recreational uses of marijuana are permitted in the District of Columbia. However, the selling of cannabis for the purpose of recreational use is still regarded as a crime and is subject to punishment. This implies that while it is allowed to own and use cannabis in the District of Columbia, you are not permitted to buy it straight from a pot business in the district.

Businesses hoping to provide clients with recreational cannabis as a consequence of Congress's intervention with DC's capacity to fully execute Initiative 71 have resorted to the "gift" economy, a culture of giving legal marijuana via indirect transactions.

Businesses operating under i-71 compliance in the District of Columbia offer non-cannabis-related things (stickers, action figures, tshirts, paintings, pencils, etc.) and give visitors a complimentary cannabis gift with each purchase. This has enabled them to circumvent the Harris Rider, giving DC residents access to a quasi-recreational cannabis market by "gifting" cannabis.


Initiative 71 Penalties


The Metropolitan Police Department will strictly enforce laws against illegal activities including selling marijuana, driving while intoxicated, and openly consuming in public.

In certain cases, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs may decide to cancel a company's license. There are certain food-related civil enforcement duties that fall within the purview of the Department of Health.

A person caught smoking or using marijuana in public risks up to 60 days in prison and a $500 fine if found guilty.

A first-time offender caught selling marijuana risks a maximum of 6 months in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Any establishment whose owners encourage their customers to consume marijuana risks losing their certificate of occupancy and/or license to operate.

It's important to emphasize that these sanctions apply solely to the commercial sale of cannabis and not to its personal distribution. So, in DC, you won't face the same consequences for giving out weed as you would for selling it.


Where to buy weed in DC?


It's important to keep in mind that in Washington, DC, you are not truly purchasing cannabis. Instead of obtaining cannabis for free, you'll pay for anything else like a shirt, sticker, or even meals. For example, at House of Herbs DC, you may get free cannabis flowers, edibles, and extracts with the purchase of any herbal tea.

You need a medical marijuana card or to shop at a dispensary that participates in the gift economy if you want to buy cannabis.

You should be wary about asking anybody to sell you marijuana in the District of Columbia. Be sure to specify that you are not looking to buy cannabis but rather would want to get a gift whenever you make a purchase with a non-cannabis product. By using the right words, you may prevent any confusion or difficulty. A fine may be levied against both you and the DC pot business if you are caught inquiring about cannabis sales.

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