National perceptions of marijuana are shifting.
A recent CBS News poll showed a record-breaking 61 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, with seniors over the age of 65 being the only age group to oppose its legalization.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker introduced a measure that would remove the drug from the list of controlled substances, allow people that are serving jail time for marijuana-related offenses to be re-sentenced, and expunge federal marijuana-related convictions in an effort to reverse the effects that the war on drugs had on minority and poor communities.
But the District faces its own problems with the drug. Arrests for public consumption of marijuana nearly tripled in the year following its decriminalization in the city.
“We have boundaries, but everyone doesn’t respect boundaries,” said Uneeda Nichols, a Southeast resident who runs a catering business that offers cannabis-infused selections.
Nichols said she sees many people in her neighborhood using marijuana in public and attributes the act to lack of education about the city’s laws.
In November 2014, D.C. voters approved Initiative 71, legislation that decriminalized marijuana in the city, and it became law in February 2015.
Since the law took effect, adults 21 and older in the District are legally allowed to possess two ounces or less of marijuana; transfer one ounce or less of marijuana to another person who is at least 21, so long as there is no payment made or any other type of exchange of goods or services; cultivate up to six marijuana plants in their private residences, with no more than three mature plants per mature adult in a household; possess marijuana-related paraphernalia; and use marijuana on private property.
The law, however, does not legalize recreational weed growth or consumption in public, meaning use of the drug in public areas is still illegal. Operating a vehicle under the influence of the drug and selling it also remain illegal under the law.
In 2016, arrests for public use in the city reached 402 up from 142 arrests in the previous year when marijuana use became legal in D.C. Arrests for distribution also increased in 2016 to 220, up from 80 the previous year.
“We have to promote responsible use,” said Adam Eidinger, co-founder of DCMJ and leader in the legalization efforts in the District.
He says all users in the city should abide by the law, though his group uses marijuana for “political purposes.”
An individual arrested for using marijuana publicly faces up to 60 days in prison or a $500 fine if convicted. Individuals arrested for selling marijuana faces six months in jail or a $1,000 for a first offense. Restaurants or business owners that allow patrons to use marijuana could lose their business license and certificate of occupancy.
Eight states and D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana. In five of those states, weed can be bought in stores.
Congressional interference prevents D.C. from enacting any regulatory framework for the sale or taxation of the marijuana, which is why it cannot be sold or taxed in the city.
Twenty-nine states and D.C. have medical marijuana laws in place.