Washington, D.C. has a unique cannabis culture that’s unlike in any other state. Even though selling marijuana is still prohibited in the Nation’s Capital, there is a “gifting” and pot delivery industry that exists in a gray legal area that makes pot as readily available to everyone. This has made DC one of the most thriving markets on the East Coast.
The state’s home cultivation and marijuana tourism scene have flourished since legalization in 2015. Pot activists in the state freely grow and give away marijuana clones and seeds to those who wish to grow. There are also more than 300 cannabis-related businesses profiting from the legal loophole in Washington DC’s marijuana laws by “gifting” weed along with various products and services. This market rakes in millions every year but remains untaxed because of congressional interference.
However, this may soon change, oddly enough because of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton renewed the call for the commercialization of adult-use marijuana, imploring Congress to repeal the D.C. recreational marijuana commercialization rider in the next COVID-related relief bill. The congresswoman pointed out that residents are already able to buy the legal limit of 2 ounces in the black market but the District government is unable to tax it at a time when the jurisdiction is in dire need of funds because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Stakeholders in the marijuana industry also predict that DC may see cannabis sales as early as this year now that Democrats have taken control of both chambers of Congress. Medical marijuana companies in the state also have a positive outlook now that the new regulator, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Agency (ABRA) moved to boost medical marijuana patient counts and may likely play a role in launching a new recreational cannabis program if ever.
This article was reviewed and updated in 2021.
- Overview of Cannabis Growing Laws in Washington, D.C.
- History of marijuana in Washington, D.C.
- Growing Medical Marijuana in Washington, D.C
- Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Washington, D.C.
- FAQs about growing marijuana in Washington, D.C.
Overview of Cannabis Growing Laws in Washington, D.C.
Medical and recreational home cultivation is legal under Washington DC’s marijuana laws. Interestingly, the law only defined a cultivation limit under Initiative 71.
- DC residents aged 21 and older may grow up to 6 marijuana plants but only 3 should be mature at a given time.
- Only up to 12 plants can be grown in a residence and only 6 can be mature at a given time, regardless of the number of adults living there.
Before DC legalized recreational marijuana, the law did not clearly define the number of medical marijuana plants that can be grown at home. However, it did allow patients to have access to a “sufficient quantity” of marijuana under the recommendation of a physician and gave them protection for cultivating their own supply.
This was last updated in June 2020. We will be updating this guide with new developments that may come out.
Punishments for Violating Washington, D.C.’s Home Grow Laws
The penalties for violating DC’s growing laws are as follows:
- Exceeding the growing limit is punishable by 6 months imprisonment and a maximum fine of up to $1000, or both. Second offenders will get 2 years of jail time and a maximum fine of up to $5000, or both.
- However, if the intent to sell is proven, the penalty can go up to 5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of up to $50,000.
History of marijuana in Washington, D.C.
DC may have one of the most vibrant cannabis cultures in the US, but it was actually one of the first states to impose a form of restriction on cannabis drugs by requiring a prescription in 1906. However, the nation’s capital was always at the forefront of marijuana reform, legalizing medical marijuana as early as 1998. Under Initiative 59, seriously ill residents were allowed to use cannabis for medical treatment with the recommendation of a licensed physician but congressional interference in the form of the Barr Amendment blocked its implementation. After a long-drawn legal battle, the Senate and House of Representatives finally voted to lift the ban on a medical marijuana initiative in 2009.
On March 4, 2014, the Council of the District of Columbia voted to decriminalize marijuana possession. This was once again blocked by Congress through another provision. Nevertheless, Initiative 71 was voted on and approved in the same year. In 2015, the “Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014” went into effect, allowing DC residents 21 and older to possess, cultivate, give, but not sell marijuana.
Growing Medical Marijuana in Washington, D.C
Because of Initiative 71, the growing limits for medical and recreational marijuana are now the same. However, medical marijuana cardholders can buy at dispensaries and have more legal protection. It is also the only legal way for minors to use cannabis to treat their debilitating conditions.
Patients with qualifying debilitating conditions may apply using the DC Health Department’s Patient Application Package or the Minor Patient Application Package. Likewise, caregivers have their own application form. Here is a list of requirements that applicants need to submit with their completed forms.
- 2 recent passport photos (2”x2”)
- A copy of a federal, state, or district-issued ID
- Copies of 2 forms of proof of residency. This can be any of the following:
- Proof of payment of DC personal income tax
- A property deed for a DC residence showing the applicant as owner or co-owner
- An unexpired lease or rental agreement in the name of the applicant on a DC residential property
- A pay stub issued less than forty-five (45) days prior to the application date showing the applicant’s withholding of District income tax
- A DC voter registration card
- Current official documentation of financial assistance from the District Government.
- A current motor vehicle registration in the name of the applicant showing DC residency
- A District motor vehicle operator’s permit or other official non-driver identification with the applicant’s name
- A utility bill (excluding telephone bill) from a period within the two (2) months preceding the application date with the applicant’s name on a DC residential address
- Electronic Healthcare Practitioner Recommendation
- Caregiver application form (if designating a caregiver). Required for minor patients.
- For applicants who want to avail of reduced fees, a copy of either of the following:
- Proof of being a current Medicaid or DC Alliance recipient
- Document proving the applicant’s total income is equal to or less than 200% of the federal poverty level.
Completed application forms and requirements may be mailed to the DC Health Medical Marijuana Program or processed online. The application fee is $100 but can be reduced to $25 if the patient can provide proof of low income.
Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Washington, D.C.
How does Washington DC’s marijuana laws compare with home growing laws in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.
FAQs about growing marijuana in Washington, D.C.
Yes, it is legal to cultivate cannabis for recreational purposes at home in Washington, D.C.
You may grow up to 6 marijuana plants but only 3 should be mature at a given time.
Only up to 12 plants can be grown in a residence and only 6 can be mature at a given time, regardless of the number of adults living there.
Yes, it is legal to cultivate medical cannabis at home in Washington, D.C.
The home growing limit for recreational and medical cannabis is the same in Washington, D.C.: 3 mature, 3 immature plants.
On your property, in a locked space where you can keep your plants away from public view.
Growers have to be at least 21 to be able to cultivate marijuana legally in Washington, D.C.
Although Washington DC’s marijuana laws aren’t as generous as, say, Rhode Island’s, it is sufficient. It is also likely that most growers exceed this limit anyway, seeing how weed is so readily available in the state. Nevertheless, DC residents who are just getting into home cultivation should be aware of the following things:
- If you are renting a property, clarify with your landlord first before growing marijuana.
- Never grow within 1000 feet of schools and similar establishments for minors. This includes daycare centers, colleges and universities, public swimming pools, playgrounds, video arcades, youth centers, or public libraries, or in and around public housing.