Is Cannabis Legal in D.C.?

I recently relocated to Washington, D.C. to join our East Coast practice group and have been inundated with inquiries surrounding the legal framework of recreational cannabis (i.e., marijuana and hemp) in the nation’s capital. So, in light of this overwhelming interest, I thought I’d briefly summarize this issue for our readers.


In November 2014, D.C. residents overwhelmingly approved Initiative 71, a ballot measure that legalized the possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana by residents of 21 years of age or older.

However, a few weeks following the passage of the marijuana ballot initiative, Congressional Republicans attempted to nullify the law by including a rider in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 that prohibited the District from using any funds to enact legislation taxing and regulating marijuana. Under federal law, Congress reviews all legislation passed by the Council (think of it as the equivalent of D.C.’s state legislature) and any referendum measure approved by voters before it becomes law. In addition, Congress retains authority over the District’s budget. Therefore, if Congress wishes to influence the affairs of the District, it generally does so through amendments to unrelated legislation such as spending bills.

Nevertheless, District officials,

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