D.C. Decriminalizes Marijuana, Federal Land Raises Legal Complications

Washington D.C. has formally decriminalized possession of marijuana and even those who are caught with more (a few grams) will receive just a $25.00 citation, less than a parking ticket in most cities. Prior to the passage of the decriminalization law, residents faced fines up to $1,000 and jail time for possession. The passage of the law is following a nationwide trend towards loosening marijuana restrictions, the appropriation of medical marijuana legalization bills, and the reduction of criminal penalties for marijuana possession and use.


According to reports, police officers in Washington D.C. still have the right to confiscate marijuana that is visible. Smoking marijuana outdoors or in a public area, such as on the street or in a park can still amount to an arrest. However, fines and jail time for public usage are capped. Our Orange County marijuana defense attorneys are committed to helping marijuana growers and users protect their rights. We are also abreast of national trends toward legalization and are committed to raising awareness.

One pivotal change in Washington D.C. marijuana law involves probable cause and the search and seizure of a person, car or property. Police officers are no longer able to search or arrest based on smell or suspected use. The new law mandates that officers are only able to perform a search if a driver is suspected to be under the influence.

Decriminalization of pot puts Washington D.C. on the map with 16 other states. Another bill waiting to be passed would allow the city to tax and regulate medical marijuana. Though marijuana use has been decriminalized, it is not yet legalized, a distinction that could be eradicated if the bill goes to the polls in November. According to analysts, the decriminalization bill aims to reduce racial discrimination in the number of arrests and prosecutions.

According to advocates, decriminalization should curb racial disparity, by preventing officers from using marijuana as a basis for otherwise unlawful search and seizure. The American Civil Liberties Union reports that Washington D.C. is national leader in the number of marijuana arrests. The data also reveals that black men are eight times more likely to face marijuana possession charges, even though the use of marijuana is documented as almost equal among both the white and black demographics.

Like other cities and states that have moved towards legalization, marijuana is still a federal crime and Washington D.C. is, for obvious reasons, tied to federal land and legal underpinnings. Despite decriminalization, targeted users could still face significant fines and penalties for carrying marijuana on federal land. For the majority of users, the distinction between federal land and D.C. territories can be complicated or unknown. Those who are caught with marijuana may not appreciate the potential for serious consequences and penalties related to federal land. In essence, the decriminalization law does not legalize pot, but rather reduces the opportunity for officers to use marijuana as a justification for search and seizure, especially where criminal apprehensions are racially motivated.

There are concerns that the decriminalization bill may raise more questions than answers. Since police are no longer able to stop and search, many users are wondering how marijuana will be identified or confiscated. Users in D.C. and nationwide must stay abreast of localized trends and laws to prevent any criminal liability. An experienced marijuana attorney can help you protect your personal rights, grow your marijuana business, and ensure local and state compliance.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.

More Blog Entries:
Getting Started in the Medical Marijuana Industry, May 15, 2014, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog
United States Marijuana Laws Influencing Other Countries, February 14, 2014, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog

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