Written by Zach Champ
POPULARITY OF CANNABIS IN THE UNITED STATES
Cannabis is quickly growing in popularity across the United States and more and more states are legalizing or decriminalizing possession and use of this once controversial, but now commonly accepted plant medicine. And rightfully so! Cannabis is one of the world’s most popular drugs and Americans have long loved Marijuana even during its prohibition. Marijuana has entranced the American psyche and is now becoming a popular topic in the forefront of domestic politics.
As it stands there are currently 33 states which allow for the use of medicinal marijuana, with 10 states allowing legal recreational use. 13 States have decriminalized possession from a misdemeanor charge to simple fines and fees. We are certain to see more states legalize recreational and medicinal marijuana over the next few years.
Photo Courtesy Google Images
It is important to note that at the federal level, cannabis is still a regulated and scheduled substance, and is illegal to possess and consume except under specific circumstances. The divide between federal and state laws on cannabis has created a modern political dilemma resulting in the sometimes ambiguous and unclear interpretation of the law. Many people may remember the early days of marijuana legalization in California where federal agents from the DEA raided the first medical dispensaries. While this is uncommon these days, the federal ban on marijuana still affects the legal weed industry, mainly in preventing the cannabis businesses from depositing their funds in banks and utilizing the banking system.
HISTORY OF CANNABIS IN WASHINGTON D.C
Medical Marijuana has been legalized in the District of Columbia since 1998 when local voters approved the passing of Initiative 59. Even though this law was passed in 1998, Congress delayed efforts to enact medical marijuana within the capital by passing the Barr Amendment which forbids city government from using federally appropriated funds in the budget for implementing a medical marijuana policy. This amendment, which represented a significant hurdle in bringing medical marijuana to the city’s residents wasn’t overruled until 2009, and the first medical marijuana sales didn’t occur subsequently until 2013.
The law stipulated that in order to become a medical marijuana patient in DC, applicants must fill out a form with their physicians. They also are required to provide two forms of identification, as well as a written recommendation from their healthcare provider. There is a $100 fee with the application which generally takes a month or two to process by the Department of Health. There are an estimated 6000 individuals in the District of Columbia who are card-carrying medical marijuana patients, and only 5 dispensaries available within the city to service their needs.
An example of a DC Medical Marijuana Patient Card
On March 4th, 2014 the City Council decriminalized possession of cannabis. Once again Congress officials from neighboring states sought to undermine the locally supported and approved policy. Congressional Representative for Maryland Andy Harris passed an amendment similar to the Barr Amendment which prohibited the utilization of federal funds for decriminalization purposes, much to the anger and protest of city residents who immediately boycotted Harris and his district. To this day many residents in the District of Columbia find that the federal government and neighboring states are constantly at odds with the desires and needs of residents in the capital. This is just another example of how outside interests are once again interjecting their unwanted and unasked for opinions into local politics here in the Capital.
WHAT EXACTLY IS THE LAW ON CANNABIS IN WASHINGTON D.C?
On November 2014 voters in the District of Columbia passed Initiative 71 formally known as the Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Initiative. This law became effective on February 26th, 2015 and essentially states that it is legal for a 21-year-old to possess at least 2 ounces of marijuana, and to be able to transfer at least 1 ounce to another person of at least 21 years of age as a gift only. Residents in the District of Columbia may grow up to 6 marijuana plants, with no more than 3 mature plants at any given time. Initiative 71 also allows D.C residents to possess paraphernalia associated with cannabis such as smoking bowls and glass pipes, bongs, scales, etc. Initiative 71 allows D.C residents to consume marijuana on private property.
It is important to note that Initiative 71 doesn’t give residents in the District of Columbia a blank check to consume marijuana whenever and wherever they want. There are several activities which can still get you in legal trouble with the law if you are caught. Some of these activities include:
- Buying or Selling Cannabis in Any Amount
- Possessing more than the designated amount of 2ounce for personal use
- Operating a vehicle, boat, bicycle, or other vehicles while under the influence of Marijuana or cannabis products
- Smoking, eating, or drinking marijuana is non-designated areas such as Federal and Public property
- Possession of any amount of Marijuana while under the age of 21
SO, CAN I SMOKE IN DC? WHAT ARE POP-UP EVENTS AND ARE THEY LEGAL? WHERE CAN I CONSUME OR ACQUIRE CANNABIS?
It is illegal to purchase and sell Cannabis according to Initiative 71. The policy specifically states that cannabis can only be ‘gifted’. This has resulted in an interesting grey market that has developed here in the District of Columbia. There are many vendors in the DC area who will supply you with a ‘gift’ of marijuana if you purchase a token, sticker, shirt, or other items from them. The price of the sticker or shirt or item reflects the implied gift that is received with the purchase. This has created the marijuana grey market in DC, including the phenomenon known as the pop-up event.
“Pop-Up Events” are a legal grey area. You may have seen advertisements for such events on social media, on fliers in the city, or heard about these pop-up events from a friend. The popularity of pop-up cannabis events in DC can’t be denied, and they are definitely a prevalent trend in the region. These grey markets have even made the national spotlight with articles about DC Pop-Up Events appearing in the Rolling Stone and other mainstream media outlets. Yet, at the same time, there’s also been stories about police raiding these events and arresting attendees.
So, what exactly is the situation here? Are pop-up events legal and are they safe to attend? The answer depends on the specifics of the event. The best way to determine if the pop-up event you are attending is more legitimate then not is if it’s an event tied to the creative arts such as an art gallery opening, spoken poetry reading, or another similar hobby-based assembly of like-minded folks. The presence of vendors at an event is a good sign as well. Many Cannabis vendors in the District of Columbia are legitimate small businesses complete with websites, business cards, quality control standards for the cannabis products they offer as gifts, and more! If you are having a hard time discerning whether your cannabis vendor is legitimate or not look to see if they have a brand name and logo and what kind of products they are selling.
It is illegal to consume Cannabis on federal land and property in the District of Columbia, which means most of the tourist locations such as Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, White House, National Mall grounds, and other similar spots are off limits. This also means several parks in the District of Columbia as well, much to the dismay of the stoner who likes to go on strolls surrounded by nature while enjoying their herb. In fact, the only place you can legally and safely smoke marijuana is in the comfort and security of your private residence or home located within the District of Columbia.
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