When you go back through history, you’ll discover that Washington D.C. was one of the first places in America to regulate the sale of weed. In 1906, Congress introduced an act to regulate the sale of ‘poisons’ in the District of Columbia. Specific medicines, including marijuana, became limited to licensed pharmacists, and you could only receive it via prescription.
Thanks to Initiative 59 in 1998, D.C. was one of the first locations in the United States to legalize medical marijuana. Alas, the passing of the Barr Amendment stopped the district from using its money to support the new program. It wasn’t until 2009 that the Amendment was overturned, and in 2013, the first medical marijuana customer in D.C. purchased weed from a licensed dispensary.
The District’s Council passed a bill legalizing medical weed in May 2010, so it was technically legal from the beginning of 2011. A January 2014 poll in The Washington Post found that up to 80% of the city’s residents supported either the legalization or decriminalization of medical marijuana.
The Council of D.C. decriminalized possession of weed. Initiative 71 legalized recreational cannabis as almost 65% of voters said ‘yes’ in November 2014. Even so, over 400 people were arrested for public consumption of weed in D.C. in 2016, while arrests for distribution exceeded 200 in the same year. Why? Because the commercial, recreational sale of the herb remains technically illegal.
We’ll discuss the legal minefield a little later. First of all, let’s check out how you can get an MMJ card in Washington D.C.
Here’s the Definitive Guide on How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Washington D.C.
While recreational marijuana is technically legal in the District, there are several advantages of attaining an MMJ card. First of all, you have access to specific medical marijuana dispensaries and can purchase up to four ounces of herb every 30 days. You are also allowed to group up to six plants, although you can only have three ‘mature’ plants at home at any given time.
In general, you can expect the entire process to take up to six weeks from start to finish.
Step 1 – Book an Appointment with a Licensed Physician
There are several options in D.C. Firms such as Capital City Care and the Metropolitan Wellness Center (MWC) help get you in touch with doctors they have a relationship with. For instance, MWC gives you the names and addresses of five ‘marijuana-friendly’ physicians, and claim these doctors’ appointments cost 50% less than average.
There are also companies such as Veriheal who enable you to consult a doctor online. With this type of appointment, it takes up to 15 minutes for the doctor to evaluate your ailments and answer any queries you have about cannabis treatment. If you opt for an online consultation, make sure you have your medical records ready for uploading.
In both instances, the physician will ask questions and try to ascertain whether cannabis is a viable medical treatment for your condition. We will discuss the ‘qualifying medical conditions’ a little later on. Incidentally, you are supposed to have a ‘bona fide’ relationship with the doctor.
In D.C., it is possible for a nurse practitioner, dentist, naturopathic physician, or physician assistant to provide you with the written recommendation!
Step 2 – Complete & Submit Your Application
If the physician approves you as a medical marijuana patient, you will receive a Patient ID. Keep this number safe because you need it to register with the District’s Department of Health when completing your Patient Application Form. Aside from the electronic number, you need:
- A federal or D.C. government-issued photo ID, or one issued by another state government. A valid D.C. driver’s license is usable as proof of residency. You can also use a passport.
- Overall, you need two types of proof of residency. Please note, these two documents can’t be of the same kind. For instance, you can’t have a cable bill and a utility bill.
The link we have included is for the form when your recommendation is from a doctor. There are different forms if you received the recommendation from a different source such as a dentist.
If you run into difficulties with the application form, ask a local dispensary for help. Make sure you send your application as soon as possible. The DOH doesn’t accept written recommendations made more than 90 days before the date of application.
Step 3 – Wait!
After you have registered with the DOH and submitted your form, you have to sit back and wait. According to the Department, applications are processed within 30 business days. The processing time is increased if you submit an incomplete form.
Once you receive your MMJ card in the mail, you can legally purchase up to four ounces of weed from any licensed dispensary in D.C. Applications are reviewed in order of receipt in what is a ‘first come, first served’ basis.
What Are the Qualifying Conditions Required to Receive an MMJ Card in Washington D.C.?
You must be 21+ years of age and a resident of D.C. before you receive approval. The list of qualifying conditions includes:
- Severe/persistent muscle spasms such as those in diseases like multiple sclerosis
- A chronic condition that can’t be treated by ‘ordinary’ medical measures
- Any situation where medical marijuana treatment is possibly beneficial
- You may also qualify if you undergo medical treatment such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy
What Are the Costs Associated with Attaining a Washington D.C. Medical Marijuana Card?
The application fee with the DOH is $100. If you can prove ‘low-income’ status, this fee drops to $25 (if your income is at or less than 200% of the federal poverty level). The cost for the doctor’s appointment varies and is up to $200 in some places. However, services such as MWC provide you with doctors that charge $75-$150, and as little as $25-$50 for low-income patients.
Incidentally, there are three methods of paying the DOH. You can physically enter the D.C. DOH and pay by debit or credit card. Alternatively, print out the confirmation email, and get a money order made payable to DC Treasurer. Finally, you can pay online once you receive a payment link. This option is available to online applicants only.
The MMJ card lasts for 12 months, and then you need to renew.
Other Important Information on the Washington D.C. MMJ Licensing Process and the Legal Status of Weed
Where Can I Use My Marijuana?
You can only use your weed in a private residence. If you are caught in a public place, you WILL get arrested! On the one hand, the number of arrests for possession fell from 1,500 in 2014 to just 16 in 2016. However, over 250 people are arrested for public consumption annually, and there are also hundreds of arrests for distribution.
When using weed in D.C., be VERY careful where you are. 29% of the region’s landmass is controlled by the federal government. The feds strictly enforce cannabis prohibition on their property which includes Military Land, National Parks, places such as Rock Creek Park, and the National Mall. If you are found in possession in a federal place, the penalties are severe.
Also, bars and restaurants are shut down if violations of the marijuana law occur on their property.
Where Can I Buy Marijuana?
Here is a list of licensed dispensaries in D.C., including:
- Takoma Wellness Center
- National Holistic Healing Center
- Herbal Alternatives
- GreenWay DC
- Metropolitan Wellness Center
The strange nature of the District’s laws means you can’t purchase weed in the ‘traditional’ sense if you are seeking recreational cannabis. It is illegal to buy weed directly from a store. What happens is that you buy another item, like a t-shirt or bumper sticker, and receive cannabis that is ‘donated’ by the vendor rather than being sold.
One benefit of being an MMJ patient is that you can go to the dispensaries listed above and buy the herb as usual.
Can I Get Marijuana If I Am Not a D.C. Resident?
Yes! D.C. has a broad reciprocity agreement which allows patients from 27 other states to purchase marijuana in the nation’s capital.
How Do I Register as a Caregiver?
If you need assistance using or obtaining medical marijuana, you can designate a caregiver. Make sure your selection is at least 18 years old. They can only provide care for one patient, and can only purchase weed from one selected dispensary. The process involves completing the Caregiver Application Form, passing a Criminal Background Check, providing two different proofs of D.C. residency, followed by the payment of the $100 application fee.
Although cannabis is recreationally legal in the District of Columbia, it is not permissible to buy or sell! Instead, you need to participate in the absurd ‘gifting’ economy. You don’t have to worry about this issue if you have an MMJ card, and you can buy up to four ounces. Just make sure you don’t use it in public or anywhere near federal property!