Are Edibles Pop Up Events Legal in DC?

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.

Accordingly, unlike Colorado, California, Washington and the other states that have legalized weed, the District has no recreational dispensaries. While the DC marijuana laws allow the possession of up to two ounces for personal use, its passing has created an influx of demand for weed. As you can imagine, many entrepreneurs have attempted to fill the void in this contradictory law where its legal to possess but not to distribute.

Many businesses have sprouted up offering goods and services where the buyer purchases something innocuous like a t-shirt or other product and the seller “gifts” edibles, vapes, flower, or some type of concentrate. People are even hosting large scale events at bars and private homes across the District, which is causing many “nosey neighbor” types to complain at local neighborhood advisory committee meetings. While the law may be relatively untested in this area, the Metropolitan Police Department has begun cracking down on these events in response to the purported citizen complaints. The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia—now headed by Jeff Sessions hand-picked U.S. Attorney is happily and aggressively prosecuting folks caught up in the crackdown.

In fact, recent statistics suggest that marijuana related arrests are approaching similar levels to pre-legalization. That means while the law may be unclear the government, police, and prosecution have taken the position that these types of events and “gifting” in this manner is illegal. That means if you are thinking about hosting or participating in one of these events, you could very well be arrested for possession with intent to distribute or distribution. Moreover, the Justice Department under Jeff Sessions has revoked President Obama era guidelines that allowed prosecutors discretion in charging decisions in drug cases.

Jeff Sessions is a dinosaur throwback to the failed policies of the United States drug war, which has done nothing to reduce illegal drug consumption and instead torn families apart, destroyed communities, and lead the United States to have record levels of incarceration rates on par with countries like China and Iran. So, there is a possibility that participating in an edible pop-up could land you in Federal District Court where marijuana gifting and possession remains illegal. If you end up in federal court, the prosecutors have no choice but to charge you with the most serious available charges.

That said, engaging in this type of business (gifting marijuana in connection with a separate purchase) could land you in federal prison. Its also important to note that labels or stickers that state “Proposition 71 Compliant” have no legal effect whatsoever. Under DC criminal law, there is no such thing as being Prop 71 compliant.

Finally, another common misconception is that concentrates like shatter, wax, hash, and vape oils are legal to possess and “gift.” The marijuana legalization law actually did not legalize “hash” and the statute defines hash broadly to include pretty much all concentrates. That means MPD can arrest folks just for possessing concentrates whether they gift them in connection with a separate transaction or not.

Because the government continues to crack down on pot, its important to consult with a DC cannabis lawyer. At Scrofano Law PC, we have experience defending cannabis related offenses and will fight to protect your rights. If you or someone you know gets arrested, contact us for a consultation. If you are thinking of engaging in any cannabusiness activities, you should also consider contacting us and we can advise you on what potential legal risk or exposure you may have.

Additional Resources:

Facts on Marijuana in DC, Government of the District of Columbia:

Guide to Legal Marijuana in DC: What you need to know, WJLA, February 27, 2015.

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Can You Smoke Marijuana in Public in DC, Jay P. Mykytiuk Trial Attorney