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Marijuana Decriminalized: No, Pot is Not Legal in D.C.

A District of Columbia law that goes into effect Thursday reduces penalties for some marijuana possession -- but federal law still applies and there are exceptions.

(Patch file photo)
(Patch file photo)

No, pot is not legal in Washington. And anyone who tells you otherwise is… well, blowing smoke.

A District of Columbia law that went into effect today decriminalizes small amounts of marijuana, that does not make it legal to buy, possess or use. And D.C. Police are working hard to explain the difference, including handing out wallet-sized cards reminding residents of the rules.

According to D.C. police:

If you do possess one ounce or less of marijuana, police may fine you $25 – and confiscate the marijuana.

You may be arrested if you smoke or otherwise consume marijuana in public. And, it is still illegal (resulting in arrest) to sell any amount of marijuana or possess more than one ounce of it.

Further, on the federal level, marijuana is still illegal, period. So, federal police who are in the District may still arrest you for buying, using, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana, no matter how little.

The D.C. Council passed the decriminalization law earlier this year, taking away jail time for marijuana offenses.

“In D.C., there are more than 5,000 arrests per year for marijuana; 90 percent are African American,” said council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), the lead sponsor of the bill, the Washington Post reported. “One drug charge can change a life forever. Our action . . . does not repeal all negative impacts caused by criminalization of marijuana, but it moves us in the right direction.” 

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