Cannabis law reforms have been happening all over the United States, with Washington, D.C. having one of the most progressive policies. The capital not only legalized medical marijuana but also adult-use recreational marijuana, along with 18 states that did the same.
What you need to know about these states, including the District of Columbia is that these places have their own sets of laws that affect how people can access cannabis. If you live in the capital, this guide can help you navigate the landscape as a consumer.
Here’s what you need to know about accessing cannabis in D.C.
What are Considered Cannabis Products?
Before we talk about accessing cannabis products in the capital, we need to provide a clear description of what qualifies as cannabis products. Plant parts are considered cannabis products, whether we are talking about flowers, leaves, and shakes, as well as cigarettes like joints, blunts, and spliffs.
Plant parts are more straightforward because they basically maintain the actual parts of the cannabis plant. These can also be used as ingredients in different recipes, as is. Many people simply toss them into a dish of their liking or add them to baked goods like cookies and brownies.
However, the thriving cannabis industry has opened a lot of opportunities to experiment with different products. You can find a wide range of goods containing cannabinoids such as chocolates, gummies, oils, tinctures, capsules, and many others.
The types of products available are not the only exciting part of the sector. As more research is being done on the plant and the chemical compounds it contains, researchers were able to develop novel products containing a wide variety of cannabinoids. Some examples are goods infused with delta-8 THC and delta-10 THC, which are THC isomers.
What are the Federal Laws Regarding Cannabis Products?
Numerous states have reformed their marijuana laws in order to allow the medicinal and recreational use of the plant. However, the fact remains that cannabis remains to have a complicated history on the federal level.
One big part of it is that many have the misconception that the term cannabis refers to marijuana only. This discounts the fact that hemp, which is a type of cannabis plant (Cannabis sativa L.), is not marijuana. The truth is, hemp and marijuana are both types of cannabis, but they have distinct features that make them unique.
The 2018 Farm Bill or the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 created clear legal distinctions between the two. According to this law, a plant is considered hemp if it is high in CBD and low in THC, which should remain at 0.3% or below. Products that contain the legal amount of THC are now legal in the country.
Any plant, parts of a plant, or products containing more than 0.3% THC are considered marijuana, as per the 2018 Farm Bill. What makes this law more interesting is that it exempts THCs in hemp in the definition of marijuana. So, any THC that organically comes from hemp can be legal. However, it is important to note that it does not affect the legal status of synthetic THCs.
Despite the more considerate treatment of THC in the 2018 Farm Bill, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) still takes a more critical stance on THC.
According to the CSA, marijuana does not have any medicinal value, and that it poses a high risk for abuse, which makes it a Schedule I drug. This legislation also lists tetrahydrocannabinol, a group of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant, as Schedule I substances. It is listed under other names like THC, delta 9 THC, delta 8 THC, and dronabinol.
Another important part of the CSA is the Federal Analogue Act, which is notes that substances that have structural or pharmacological similarities to Schedule I and Schedule II substances will be regulated as well. Products that are claimed to be similar to Schedule I and II substances are included in this definition.
The federal stand on marijuana and the cannabis community as a whole has made it difficult for businesses to access banking services. Banks tend to shy away from the industry because of federal laws surrounding cannabis.
Is Cannabis Legal in D.C.?
The beauty of having state laws is it enables particular states to enact legislation on certain matters even if federal laws say otherwise. The same is true with cannabis. While the federal government treats marijuana as an illegal substance, states have passed laws that not only legalize its medical use but also its recreational use.
Let us start with the district’s decriminalization of minor possession. Back in 2015, the capital has decriminalized possessions in small amounts for individuals 21 years and above through Initiative 71. Particularly, adults can possess up to two ounces or less, and cultivate up to six plants with only up to three mature plants. Possession of paraphernalia and consumption on private property is also allowed.
Aside from this, patients with qualifying conditions can apply for a medical marijuana card through the district’s MMJ program. Cardholders are allowed to have their supply of cannabis for the month.
What you should know is that the Metropolitan Police Department noted that buying and selling marijuana remains to be illegal in the district. You can get arrested for doing so. Other cause of arrest includes possessing more than the allowed amount, operating a vehicle under the influence, and consuming in public spaces.
Minors also cannot access marijuana and being caught doing so is cause for arrest. Those who are thought to be minors but are not should be able to present proof of age.
What Cannabis Products Can You Buy in D.C.?
Now that you have an idea about the cannabis laws that exist in the capital, you might be thinking of getting yourself some cannabis products. There are two types of cannabis products that you can access in D.C. They are as follows:
- Hemp-Derived CBD
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 has made hemp-derived CBD legal in the United States, which means that it can be accessed in all states including Washington, D.C. While other states have their own rules when it comes to CBD, the capital is pretty welcoming of this cannabinoid.
You can get your hands on CBD products as long as they contain only up to 0.3% of THC. Any amount higher than that is illegal.
- Medical Marijuana
If you have a qualifying condition that makes you eligible for a medical marijuana card, you need to acquire this license before you can purchase medical marijuana. The commercial sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes is allowed in the district and as long as you have your MMJ card, you can purchase your supply.
You need to remember that applying for a medical marijuana card can be easy if you have all the necessary documents. A certification from your physician is necessary. Once you secure your card, you need to make sure to purchase from licensed dispensaries only.
Important Reminders on Accessing Cannabis in DC
With the discussion of cannabis laws in the district above, what you should always remember is that the capital is yet to make buying and selling marijuana products legal, that is, if you are not a licensed medical marijuana dispensary.
However, residents can still access marijuana for recreational purposes in legal amounts through a practice called gifting. Many consumers, for medical purposes or not, get their products this way. Here’s how it works: a non-cannabis business sells something unrelated to marijuana like stickers, shirts, or any other items. These goods come with marijuana as a gift.
This practice has been going on for a long time and it is considered legal. However, there are concerns about the safety of consumers that get their products through gifting because this market is unregulated. Different sources call it gray or black market.
For the most part, the market did not have any issues with the regulated market that occurs through licensed dispensaries. However, the pandemic has caused the two markets to clash, especially as many patients saw the expiry of their MMJ registrations. These individuals then obtained their supply through the unregulated market. Moreover, many consumers prefer gifting as it tends to be more affordable.
Fortunately for the gray market, an attempt to shut down the practice of gifting through an emergency bill was recently stopped when the provision was removed from the bill.
The good news for consumers and sellers alike is that a new budget bill for the district may come without the provision that prevents the sale of recreational marijuana. The provision, called the Harris Rider, was approved every year since legal sales for marijuana began.
Should the rider fail to make it to the new budget bill, consumers and sellers may be able to buy and sell recreational marijuana without legal problems. This is also expected to create fair and safe retail of such products.
If This Happens, What Kinds of Products Could You Access?
This new budget bill could open a lot of opportunities for the cannabis community in the district. If it makes it through the hoops, you might be able to access products that are considered marijuana, for recreational purposes. In general, these products contain more than 0.3% THC such as:
- Flowers and Rolls
Flowers and rolls are some of the products that offer an authentic cannabis experience. This scene is a pretty exciting one because of the wide variety of strains you can try. You can start with some of the mildest strains to some of the most exciting ones.
Keep in mind that strains have distinct features that make them preferable to many. Each strain has a unique blend of taste and aroma, ranging from earthy flavors and smells to fruity ones. Their cannabinoid content also lets them offer different effects, from a more cerebral high to a more body-focused one. Make sure to pick one that suits your preferences and needs.
- Infused Products
Aside from smokables, you might also have access to a wide range of infused products such as gummies, vape pens and cartridges, capsules, oils, tinctures, and many more. There are a lot of items to choose from and you are bound to find ones that hit the spot.
If you are not into smoking but you want to try inhaling marijuana, then vaping is your best bet. If you prefer to take it as a delightful treat, you can go for edibles like gummies. You can also find products for topical, sublingual, and oral intake, so you really have a lot of choices when it comes to methods of consumption.
Infused products may not be as diverse when it comes to strains, but you can find ones in different flavors, levels of THC and CBD, and other features that make them favorites and well-loved in the community.
- Possibly Goods Containing Novel Cannabinoids
The success of the cannabis industry is bound to continue, especially with the use of novel cannabinoids such as delta-8, delta-10, and THCV, just to name a few. These substances are very similar to THC, which makes them great alternatives for the said cannabinoid.
Delta-8 and -10 THCs are milder versions of the primary cannabinoid delta-9 THC, with delta-10 being the mildest of the three. Delta-10, in particular, is seen as a substitute for CBD for those wanting something more potent than CBD, but less intense than delta-8 or -9.
What you need to be aware of is that these novel cannabinoids may fall under a gray legal area because many states, including D.C., are yet to address them in their laws. This is why many people assert that they are legal because of a lack of specific legislation, while others state that they are illegal based on federal laws.
The District of Columbia is at the forefront of cannabis legislation in the United States. With this essential information on cannabis laws in the district, you can make informed decisions when it comes to accessing cannabis products for medical or recreational purposes.
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