The answer is complicated but probably not. In 2015, the District of Columbia City Council passed legislation that legalized marijuana under local law. The legislation codified Proposition 71, which was a voter initiative that the citizens of the District overwhelmingly supported. This paved the way for a new era in marijuana laws in the DC. However, Republicans in Congress have each year interfered with the will of local voters and put a “rider” into a spending bill that blocks the local government from the ability to create a regulatory mechanism for recreational dispensaries.
Marijuana decriminalization took effect a few weeks ago and its important to know the facts before you spark up. First and foremost, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. There is a good chance that at least the United States Park Police and the Capitol Police—both of which have jurisdiction to make arrests in DC—will continue to make arrests for marijuana possession. Whether the United States Attorney’s Office will then prosecute those arrests in federal district court remains to be seen.
Under District of Columbia law, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is now punishable by a $25.00 citation. The citation is akin to a speeding ticket. It does not carry possible jail time. That means if the Metropolitan Police Department (or “MPD”)—the District’s local police force—stops you and finds less than one ounce of weed, the officer should only give you a citation and let you on your way. However, smoking marijuana in public remains illegal under both federal and local law. That means if you get caught by any police agency smoking weed in public, you will likely get arrested. The penalty for smoking weed in public is akin to getting arrested for possessing an open container of alcohol.