District of Columbia

D.C. Marijuana Laws

Medical Marijuana

  • Passsed by council in 2010.
  • Permits possession of 2 oz dried.
  • Other limits to be determined.
  • First dispensary in 2013.
  • Law permits for establishment of up to 8 dispensaries.

Criminal Penalties


Misdemeanor – 6 months

Sale, Distribution or Cultivation

Unclassified – Up to 5 years


Possession: 6 months

Sales: 3 years

The District of Columbia’s medical marijuana law passed unanimously by the Council. The Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Amendment Act was signed by the mayor in May 2010.

The move came some 14 years after nearly 70 percent of D.C. voters approved a 1998 referendum on medical marijuana use by seriously ill patients. Previously, Congress had blocked the law from taking effect.

Dispensaries are limited to no more than 95 plants. Marijuana remains illegal as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, which provides for enhanced penalties for those caught with more than 100 plants. Operating in the shadows of the U.S. Capitol, the city has promised one of the nation’s most restrictive medical marijuana laws in an attempt to avoid Congressional intervention.

The city will collect a 6 percent sales tax. Both non-profit and for-profit organizations will be eligible to operate dispensaries. Dispensaries will not be permitted within 300 feet of a school. Our Los Angeles medical marijuana lawyers have seen zoning laws and code enforcement used as a means of keeping lawfully operating dispensaries from establishing or maintaining a presence. The same is already occurring in D.C., where a law approved by council limits the number of cultivation centers in Ward 5, where most of the eligible land is located. Five of six grow sites had been located in Ward 5 when a councilman proposed emergency legislation to limit to six the number of growing locations in any one ward. Holistic Remedies, on the 1800 block of Fenwick Street NE, in the Ivy City neighborhood, was the first cultivation center to be issued a license and was approved to grow marijuana at the start of 2013.

Those seeking access must have their physician complete paperwork from the Department of Health. Thus far, only about 100 physicians have expressed interest in participating in the program.

D.C.’s medical marijuana law permits use for a wide number of medical conditions, including those that are chronic, debilitating or that interfere with the basic functions of life. However, the Department of Health limited initial approval to those with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and glaucoma. A patient may possess up to two ounces of dried marijuana. The mayor can raise the limit up to four ounces and is charged with deciding limits on other forms of marijuana.

The city’s first medical marijuana dispensary, Capital City Care, was slated to open in Spring 2013.

Our Los Angeles medical marijuana lawyers know legalizing cannabis for medical use is often just the first step. Too often, law enforcement and those with authority are slow to accept its legal status. Nowhere is this likely to be truer than in the nation’s capital, where the federal government continues to prosecute violators under federal law.

D.C. Medical Marijuana News Archive

D.C.’s first medical marijuana dispensary, Huffington Post, Feb. 22, 2013.

More medical marijuana growing sites in D.C., The Washington Post, Jan. 31, 2013.

D.C. Medical Marijuana Program Clears Hurdle As Dispensary, Cultivation Site Get Certificate Of Occupancy, Huffington Post, Dec. 13, 2012.

Medical marijuana now legal, The Washington Post, July 27, 2010.

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