A Comprehensive Overview of Washington DC Drug Laws

If you are charged with violation of DC drug laws, you could face severe penalties. Scrofano Law can help you get a favorable outcome. Call us today for representation

Basics of DC Drug Laws

If you are accused of violating DC drug laws, you could face severe penalties, including jail time and fines. Here’s everything you need to know.

The District of Columbia treats drug-related offenses a little differently from other jurisdictions. Under DC law, penalties are usually calculated according to how much of the controlled dangerous substance you have been found with.

The DC Code may also enact harsher penalties depending on where you were found and the intent. If you are arrested with two ounces of marijuana for personal use, the penalties may not be as harsh as if you were found with the intent to possess, manufacture, and distribute near a school.

The court may also use its discretion to seek harsher fines and prison sentences if you have been found with a larger amount of controlled dangerous substances.

While it is essential to understand the law on DC drugs, it is critical to work with an experienced DC drug lawyer to explain the nuances of the law. The attorneys at Scrofano Law provide a first consultation so that you can get legal advice on the working of the law and how they may apply in your case.

DC Drug Test Laws

Washington DC is a mandatory jurisdiction. Any employer who wishes to perform alcohol and drug testing has to do so according to the regulations, code, and court decisions. 

However, it is essential to note that employers don’t need to conduct alcohol and drug testing in Washington DC. 

Moreover, employers are only allowed to test for marijuana after making a conditional offer to a potential employee. An employee will be deemed impaired when they get a positive marijuana test, or there is reasonable suspicion of the same. 


Essential Facts About Drug Test Laws in DC

  • Both recreational and medical marijuana is legal in Washington DC. 

  • Private employers in DC may take adverse action and establish drug policies to terminate employees who violate such policies. 

  • Private-sector employers do not have to accommodate employees using medical marijuana even if they are registered, medical marijuana users. 

  • Many Washington DC employees are employed either by the federal government or the DC government. 

    • Employees of the federal government are not allowed to use or be in possession of any Schedule I drug, including marijuana.

    • The Washington DC government may refuse to hire, penalize, or even terminate employees who have positive drug test results. 

    • All District employees may be subjected to reasonable suspicion and impairment testing.

    • The Washington DC government’s safety- and protective-sensitive employees are subject to random testing for drugs, including marijuana. 

    • Security-sensitive District employees do not have to undergo random testing, including marijuana testing. 

If you have been charged with DC drug crimes or other prohibited acts, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in DC.

The Scrofano Law firm has a skilled DC drug lawyer who has helped many clients with their cases in DC. Contact us today, and we may just be able to help with your case.

Washington DC Drug Laws

DC open container laws make it illegal to be in possession of particular controlled substances, usually referred to as drugs. The law prohibits drug possession in addition to the sale and distribution of such substances.


Illegal Drugs in DC

The code is generally broken down into various categories of controlled substances according to the potential for addiction, abuse, medicinal value, or harm from the use of such drugs.

There are specific drugs in five categories classified from Schedule I to Schedule V of controlled substances.

Schedule I drugs are typically the ones with the most potential for becoming abusive drugs and are usually very unsafe. Schedule V drugs are the least regulated as they have the lowest probability of abuse.


Legal Exceptions for Possession and Use of Drugs

Washington DC drug laws allow certain people to legally be in possession of Schedule V substances. Most people allowed to interact with such drugs are those with prescriptions.

Other people who may interact with drugs include caregivers and healthcare providers who may administer and have in their possession certain substances and prescription drugs that are illegal for other people to possess.

Lastly, people that may need such substances or drugs for medical treatment or testing may include licensing bodies, doctors, and physicians’ assistants.

Drug Penalties in the District of Columbia

The penalty for possession or use of drugs depends on the type of control placed upon an illegal substance. For instance, you would get up to 30 years in prison for manufacturing and distributing Schedule I drugs and one year for Schedule V drugs.

The rationale for the different penalties is that some drugs are more dangerous and may have more severe impacts on the user. Other factors that may be taken into account include the propensity for abuse and associated crime that may have a broader social impact.

Illegal drug use typically associated with the above means that drugs such as cocaine and heroin are the most dangerous, hence the harsh penalties.

If you have been charged with a drug offense, contact an experienced Washington DC DUI attorney as soon as you can.

The Scrofano Law firm lawyers have the experience and skill to help you with your case. We provide an initial consultation on operation in a DC DUI drug crime cases, and we are well-equipped to help you put up a strong defense.

DC Drugs and the Controlled Substances Act

Under Section 48-904.01 of DC law, several drug offenses deal with actual possession, manufacture, distribution, fraudulent acquisition of drugs, and the penalties for such offenses.


Manufacturing, Distribution, and possession

It is illegal for any person to knowingly make or sell controlled substances. It is also illegal to possess controlled substances to sell or make controlled substances.

Being found guilty of the manufacture, distribution, and possession with intent to sell a Schedule I or II abusive or narcotic drug may attract penalties of up to $75,000 in fines and up to 30 years in prison.

If you are found guilty of the manufacture, distribution, and possession of Schedule I, II, or III substances that are not a narcotic or abusive drug, you could face up to $12,500 in fines and up to five years in jail. However, if the drug is half a pound or less and you do not have prior offenses, you may face up to $25,000 in fines and up to 180 days in prison.

If you are found guilty of the manufacture, distribution, and possession with intent to sell or make a Schedule IV controlled substance, you could face up to $12,500 in fines and up to three years in jail.

If you are found guilty of the manufacture, distribution, and possession with intent to sell or make a Schedule V controlled substance, you could face up to $2,500 in fines and up to a year in prison.


Knowingly Being in Possession of Controlled Substances

If a person knowingly has a controlled substance without a prescription in their possession, they are guilty of a misdemeanor and may face up to $2,500 in fines and up to 180 days in jail.

Notably, persons with no prior drug-related convictions found in possession of drugs may have their proceedings deferred and be placed under probation for up to a year. It is usually up to the court to determine the terms of the probation for first-time offenders.

Violation of the probation terms may result in prosecution, while fulfilling the terms could result in charges being dismissed. In some instances, the court may end the probation period early and leave one free to have their arrest completely expunged from the public and official record.


Fraudulently Acquiring Drugs

It is illegal to obtain controlled substances using subterfuge, deception, forgery, or fraud. As such, you may not use forged prescriptions, fake IDs, or misrepresentation to acquire controlled substances.

Anyone found guilty of the crime may face fines of up to $12,500 and up to four years in jail.


Drug Distribution to Minors and Enlisting Minors to Distribute Drugs

A person aged 21 or over that distributes a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance to a person under the age of eighteen may face a maximum penalty of up to 60 years and fines of up to $75,000.

Enlisting minors to distribute controlled substances will result in up to $25,000 in fines and up to 10 years in prison in addition to other individual penalties for distribution.

Persons with a prior conviction of enlisting minors may be slapped with up to $50,000 in fines and individual penalties of up to 20 years in prison.


Drug-Free Zones

Drug-free zones typically include all areas within 1,000 feet of public housing, schools, public libraries, colleges, youth centers, universities, playgrounds, daycare centers, public swimming pools, and events sponsored by the DC government and federal institutions.

Committing a drug-related offense in such a zone results in twice the maximum fines and prison sentences for the respective offense.


Second and Subsequent Convictions

Every second or subsequent conviction will result in a doubling of the maximum penalties for the offense. Still, it is important to note that double penalties from the provision do not stack for minors.


Conspiracy and Attempts

If you are convicted of conspiring or attempting to commit a drug-related offense, you will face similar penalties to persons that committed the actual crime.



Anyone who is not an EMT, nurse, doctor, or other person authorized to use controlled substances and is found in possession of a hypodermic syringe or hypodermic needle with a controlled substance on it and the intent to use the instrument is guilty of the crime of possession of drug paraphernalia.

If you are found with such paraphernalia, you may be slapped with up to $1,000 in fines and up to 180 days in prison.

Getting convicted of such crimes can have serious consequences that could harm your educational opportunities, employability, ability to get loans, and security clearance.

For this reason, you should work with an experienced DC drug lawyer at Scrofano Law, who will walk you through the different options. They may also help mitigate the adverse effects of being charged with drug offenses.

Implications of Possession and Distribution Charges

Understanding the implications of drug possession and distribution charges is critical for anyone facing these allegations. In Washington, DC, the penalties for possession can vary widely based on the type and amount of the controlled substance involved. For instance, simple possession of marijuana is decriminalized, subjecting offenders to a civil fine rather than criminal prosecution. However, possession of larger quantities or more dangerous substances like cocaine or heroin can lead to severe criminal penalties, including hefty fines and imprisonment.

Distribution charges carry even more severe consequences. The law distinguishes between possession for personal use and possession with intent to distribute, with the latter attracting harsher penalties. Distribution charges can result in long-term imprisonment, especially if large quantities or evidence of DC drug trafficking are present. For instance, possession of over half a pound of marijuana with intent to distribute can result in up to five years of imprisonment and significant fines.

These charges also have broader implications, affecting employment opportunities, housing, and social services due to the long-lasting stigma of a criminal record. Legal representation is crucial in navigating these complex laws and mitigating the potential consequences of a conviction.

Understanding the gravity and complexity of these charges is essential for crafting a strong defense and protecting one’s future.

Get Help From an Experienced DC Drug Lawyer


If you have been charged with or believe that you are under investigation for a drug charge or other criminal offense, it is critical to contact a DC criminal attorney. With a DC criminal defense lawyer working on your case, you can get legal advice on your rights and what to expect during the proceedings.

The Scrofano Law firm has an experienced and skilled DC criminal lawyer ready to prepare a strong defense. Whether you have been charged with intent to distribute strictly regulated substances, distributing or possessing, or any other prohibited acts, our DC drug lawyer may be able to help.


FAQs About Drug Laws in DC

What Constitutes a Controlled Substance in DC?

A controlled substance is any substance or drug that falls within the definition of Schedule I through V of the Controlled Substances Act.


What Are the Penalties for Manufacturing and Distribution?

The penalties for manufacturing and distribution of controlled substances depend on the type and amount of drug involved, as well as whether there are any prior convictions. For instance, manufacturing, distributing, and possession with intent to sell Schedule I or II drugs can result in up to $75,000 in fines and up to 30 years in prison.

What Is Constructive Possession?

Constructive possession means that you do not have physical possession of the drugs but have the power and intention to control them.

Is Crack Legal in DC?

No, crack is not legal in DC. Possession of any amount of crack or cocaine can result in up to 180 days in prison and a fine of up to $1,000 or both.


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