By Adam Eidinger,
Initiative 71 brought sweeping change to the District, but because of federal regulation, many longtime residents feel left out of the new “District of Cannabis.” In 2014, residents voted to legalize possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana, growth of up to six plants and indoor use for everyone 21 or older, but like everything in the District, it’s not that simple.
Not everyone can actually smoke or medicate at home. Home use and home-grow are controlled by property owners. Marijuana use policies are set by landlords, so renters should be careful to check marijuana-smoking policies in their lease terms before signing away their rights under Initiative 71. Tenants in public housing don’t get to choose a cannabis-friendly lease and are forced to take the restrictions of the federal government, unless they want to risk becoming homeless.
The federal government still treats cannabis as a dangerous Schedule I drug and forbids possessing, consuming or growing marijuana in public housing. Federal housing residents can’t smoke outside either because public use was banned by the D.C. Council, and they can’t go to a cannabis lounge because the council banned social use, too. So even after legalizing marijuana in the District, the 20,000 residents whose landlord is the federal government are stuck living under draconian, drug-war policing and don’t have a safe place to smoke or medicate in or out of their home.
Homeowners, however, are under no such restrictions and can take full advantage of the Initiative 71 liberties to consume and grow cannabis in their homes in the District. Given the high prices of the medical marijuana program, many low-income cannabis patients would prefer to save money by growing their own medicine at home, but they can’t.