Shawn Sukumar is a criminal defense attorney in D.C. with Price Benowitz. Shawn received his J.D. at Emory University Law School, and has exclusively focused his practice defending clients facing criminal allegations, from serious felonies to drug charges and DUI defense.
Washington D.C. has now joined a handful of states in legalizing the possession of marijuana for personal use. The city’s voters were in favor of this legalization partly based on a growing dissatisfaction with high numbers of arrests in DC for minor drug offenses.
According to a 2013 study conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union, the District led the nation with the highest percentage of marijuana possession arrests per capita.
Legalizing marijuana possession for personal use means that adults 21 years and over can now legally possess up to two ounces and grow up to six marijuana plants for their own personal use. It is also legal to gift up to one ounce to another individual 21 years or older as long as nothing of value is received in exchange.
It is still illegal to publicly consume marijuana, sell marijuana, or possess marijuana with the intent to sell it. It is also illegal to possess or use it on federal property in any amount. You cannot grow it anywhere other than your own private property and it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana.
Although DC has become more lenient on marijuana use, being caught with more than what is considered recreational can still carry high penalties. For example, a person convicted for possessing more than one half pound of marijuana with the intent to distribute it faces up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $50,000, or both.
It is important to understand the new laws in place regarding the legal amounts of marijuana possession in DC. You can still be arrested, charged and convicted for certain marijuana-related offenses and the penalties depend upon the severity of the charges. Any marijuana charge can be a serious offense and carry significant consequences.
In addition, the D.C. laws do not change federal law, and individuals can still be arrested by federal agencies that patrol federal property in D.C., including the U.S. Park Police, Secret Service, and Capitol Police.
Borderstan contributor and law firm sponsor Price Benowitz LLP. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author — our contributor and law firm sponsor Price Benowitz LLP — and do not necessarily reflect the views of Borderstan.