On November 4, 2014, voters approved a law legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District of Columbia. D.C. joins Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington in approving marijuana for recreational use.
The ballot measure, Initiative 71, allows individuals who are 21 years of age and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and up to six cannabis plants for personal use. The law does not allow for the sale of marijuana—but does allow individuals to transfer up to one ounce without receiving payment in return.
Although passed by a wide margin—64 percent to 28 percent—it is unclear whether the ballot measure will take effect in D.C. Unlike other jurisdictions that have passed recreational or medical marijuana measures, the District of Columbia is subject to federal oversight. Congress and the president retain the authority to disapprove any act of the District by joint resolution, and there are other means to stall D.C. legislation as well. For instance, the congressional appropriations process was used to delay the legalization of medical marijuana in the District for more than a decade. Given the new Republican majority and vocal opposition by some members of Congress, the measure’s approval is uncertain.
Even if recreational marijuana is ultimately legalized in D.C., employers would not be required to permit or accommodate marijuana usage in the workplace under this law. As passed, Initiative 71 states that nothing in the law should be interpreted to require employers to “accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale or growing of marijuana in the workplace or to affect the ability of any . . . employer to establish and enforce policies restricting the use of marijuana by employees.”
Nevertheless, at least one member of the Council of the District of Columbia has said that he would support an anti-discrimination measure for employees with respect to marijuana use, although no legislation is currently pending.