“Herb is the healing of the nation, alcohol is the destruction.” Bob Marley
According to drugwarfacts.org, 33,171 deaths last year were alcohol related. Despite this fact, alcohol has been fully legalized in the United States since 1933. By contrast, zero deaths have been associated with marijuana and yet, the drug remains illegal in many states. Although the District of Columbia has legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 and older, there remain many grey areas when it comes to consumption and sale of the drug. Public consumption of marijuana remains illegal and possession of marijuana on federal lands like the National Mall remains illegal because these lands are governed by federal laws, not those of the District of Columbia.
Laws Governing Pop-Up Marijuana Events in DC
In the District of Columbia, marijuana pop-up events are becoming increasingly popular and it is important to understand how DC’s marijuana laws apply to these events. Since Initiative 71 went into effect in 2015, it has been legal for a person who is at least 21 years old to possess two ounces or less of marijuana, although it remains illegal to sell any amount of marijuana to another person. After Initiative 71, the possession of more than 2 ounces of marijuana by an adult is a misdemeanor crime that carries with it a penalty of up to 6 months of incarceration and a fine of up to $1000. Cannabis vendors at pop-up events have circumvented DC’s prohibition on the sale of marijuana by selling other products, such as t-shirts, baked goods, juice, and hats, that come with a “gift” of marijuana upon purchase. Although the “transfer” or “gifting” (as opposed to the sale) of up to one ounce of marijuana is technically legal, DC law enforcement does not view transfers that take place upon the sale of a non-marijuana product as true “gifts” but instead as thinly veiled illegal transactions. In fact, in recent months, the DC police have worked to shut down such events. Last month, 27 people were arrested in Northeast Washington after police raided a marijuana pop-up shop inside a back alley event studio. Although managers of the event claimed that it was in compliance with DC law, gifting marijuana alongside a purchase is still not considered lawful by DC police.
The only legal ways to obtain marijuana in DC are to grow it yourself, receive one ounce or less from a friend who grows it, or register as a medical cannabis patient with the Department of Health and obtain it from one of the five dispensaries in DC. If you are thinking of growing marijuana at home, keep in mind that DC residents are permitted to cultivate up to six marijuana plants within their residence, no more than three of which may be mature. If you or someone you know has been charged with marijuana possession in DC, contact our office immediately, we are here to help you.
What are Your Chances of Being Arrested at a Pop-up Event?
As the popularity of marijuana pop up events has increased, so too have complaints and anonymous tips regarding the pop-ups, and arrests are on the rise. Law enforcement has warned that they are specifically targeting vendors at DC’s marijuana pop-up events. While the police are prohibited from conducting warrantless, unreasonable searches of marijuana pop-ups by the fourth amendment, they often team up with regulatory bodies such as ABRA (Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration) and DC’s business licensing agency and use regulatory searches as a pretext for investigating criminal wrongdoings as well as regulatory violations.