There were an unexpected 30 minutes this week when it looked like the District of Columbia would soon be home to pot clubs — a murky world where people still wouldn’t have a way to legally purchase marijuana, but could at least free their conscience and legally light up in designated public spaces.
The D.C. Council voted Tuesday to allow pot smoking at rooftop bars, sidewalk cafes and other places, but then quickly reneged. The mayor’s office pleaded with the council, arguing the city wasn’t equipped to sanction public pot smoking and couldn’t risk having the current marijuana law “go up in smoke.”
Ultimately, the council kept the pot club ban intact, deciding instead to revisit the issue within four weeks.
The current law, thanks to some congressional meddling, is rather ambiguous: People can grow marijuana in their homes, possess up to 2 ounces at a time on non-federal land outside of their home and smoke it in private residences. But they can’t legally buy or sell it.
The thing about pot in D.C., however, is that some smokers are already smoking in public spaces, creating a common smell of marijuana in the city — and lots of people don’t seem to care. According to a Washington Post poll in November, 57 percent of District residents say they smell marijuana at least once a month. And of those residents, 45 percent say the smell doesn’t bother them at all; 17 percent say it doesn’t bother them “too much.” Fewer than 4 in 10 respondents say the smell irks them at least to a degree.
So if, by chance, you do want to follow the marijuana law that’s on the books, here’s what you should know:
What is the proper way to give the gift of marijuana?
You should stick to the traditional gift etiquette you follow when giving a gift to your aunt or boss and ensure that no money is exchanged. If you give someone marijuana for a birthday, just give it to them, and don’t ask them for a donation or money related to that marijuana. Not asking for money in exchange for marijuana will ensure you don’t get labeled a drug dealer.
But I can give someone marijuana, right?
Yes, marijuana is a perfectly legal gift. Under the current law in D.C., you can gift up to 1 ounce of marijuana. Just make sure the recipient is 21 or older. And just to be safe, refrain from giving the gift of marijuana on D.C.’s college campuses. Remember: Asking for money in exchange for a gift is poor form and makes for a terrible gift.
It’s Saturday night on U Street NW, I’m a few drinks in and there’s a rooftop. People are smoking cigarettes, and I’m a believer that cigarettes are a bigger public health risk than marijuana. Now is the time for me to smoke a joint, right?
It may feel like the right time at the moment, but it is still very illegal to light a joint in public in the nation’s capital. Despite your firmly held beliefs on the matter, marijuana and cigarettes are not treated equally in the eyes of D.C.’s marijuana law.
I live with four roommates, and one of them holds a fancy government security clearance and won’t let me smoke in my own home. Can I just smoke on the sidewalk in front of our house? It’s so close to my house, people probably think it’s my house anyway.
No, it is illegal to smoke in public spaces, which includes the sidewalk right in front of your house. There’s a chance no one will bother you if you light up there, but it’s still illegal. And no matter what your roommate protests, it’s not illegal to smoke in your home. You must decide if you’d rather risk receiving the wrath of your roommate or D.C. police.
I’m a bit of an entrepreneur. Can I give people marijuana for free, and then just firmly ask for a suggested donation?
The answer is still no. Many have tried this, and while it falls into a gray area, police can bust you for this.
But what if I distribute the marijuana — in exchange for donations, of course — out of a car with marijuana plants painted on it on a busy street in the city. It’s so obvious that it must be legal, right?
Kush Gods already tried this, and the mighty hath fallen. For months, a brightly painted Mercedes SUV and Lexus coupe traded brownies, cupcakes, cookies and gummy bears along H and U streets NW and Adams Morgan that police say were laced with marijuana. Late last month, police busted the operation. The owner of Kush Gods, however, argues that what he is doing was legal and vows to return.
I want to throw a big party, and knowing my friends, weed will play a role. My apartment is too small to hold everyone. Can I rent a warehouse and throw a party where people will smoke?
No, this constitutes as lighting up in a commercial place. If you’re not smoking in your home or someone else’s private residence, and you want to stay within the law, don’t smoke.
Can I grow my own marijuana, then smoke joint after joint after joint on my couch with my friends?
Yes, enjoy D.C.’s strange marijuana laws in the comfort of your own home. Just don’t drive afterward!
What if I do drive afterward?
Bad idea. Not only is it dangerous, it is very much illegal to operate a vehicle or boat while high.