Cannabis in the Capitol - Five ways to get pot in DC

February 11, 2021

By J. Michael Devine

Growing up in the DC metro area I have seen marijuana access shift from conspicuous to convenient. From buying dub sacks of schwag on North Capitol St in the 90’s, to purchasing high quality cultivars in Medical Marijuana dispensaries, things have changed. The laws, the access and the culture have officially made DC a green city. Cannabis is legal in DC for anyone over 21 to possess, grow, trade and consume in the privacy of their home. There are certain parameters on how much you can carry, grow, and who can sell it legally under the letter of the law. We do not condone illegal activities in any way. In this article we will discuss the 5 ways to find marijuana in the nation’s Capital. They are the following:

  1. Obtain a Medical card
  2. Grow it 
  3. Trade  
  4. know a friend
  5. Gray Area

First, let’s make sure that we understand the legal parameters of cannabis in the District of Columbia.

It is legal for a person who is over 21 years of age to:

  • Possess two ounces or less of marijuana;
  • Transfer one ounce or less of marijuana to another person who is at least 21 years old, so long as there is no payment made or any other type of exchange of goods or services;
  • Cultivate within their residence up to six marijuana plants, no more than three of which are mature;
  • Possess marijuana-related drug paraphernalia – such as bongs, cigarette rolling papers, and cigar wrappers – that is associated with one ounce or less of marijuana; or
  • Use marijuana on private property.

Related article: The Facts on DC Marijuana Laws

There are some advantages to being a DC resident when accessing and growing cannabis in the District. But being a tourist isn’t a bad thing. With millions of visitors coming to DC for the Smithsonian Museums and other attractions it just makes sense for visitors to enjoy some legal cannabis on their visit. Weed tourism blends perfectly with a variety of free museums and unparalleled cultural experiences accessible in the District. Who wouldn’t want to get really high and see some of the greatest art and history collections in the world. Resident or out of towner, anyone who wants to catch a buzz can do so safely and feel comfortable enjoying the sites.

Related article: 7 Tips to ensure a great experience smoking marijuana

First: Medical Marijuana Card

If you are looking to access a quality controlled cannabis product in a legal setting, applying for a medical marijuana card may be the best option. The process involves applying to the DC Medical Marijuana program which recently transitioned under the umbrella of the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA). The application requires a written referral from a health care provider and proof of residency in the District. After completing the application form along with providing the proper documentation, photographs and referral info one must pay a $100 registration fee.

Then comes the waiting game. I recall waiting almost 3 months to receive my card about 5 years ago. An interesting fact is that DC dispensaries accept patients with medical cards from any other state. That means that if you are visiting from another state with the appropriate documentation then DC dispensaries will welcome your business with open arms. Patients looking for specific levels of potency and flower alternative products such as topicals and vaporizers will often feel more comfortable with the quality control established by the medical marijuana industry. 

Second: Grow it yourself

Without having a medical card an individual can legally grow up to 6 plants in their home, only 3 of which can be mature at a time. This method may be a little quicker than waiting on a medical card application to be processed and provide some pride of ownership over the process, but not by much. Growing high quality cannabis is an art and a science as well as potentially being very expensive, so make sure you are prepared to take on the process accordingly. When Prop 71 was first passed I recall many people trying their hand at growing the ganja plants, even people who didn’t use cannabis. Friends would offer you a quarter ounce of some mid grade home grown which you would accept graciously hoping it wouldn’t taste like hay. 

Related article: 5 Reasons Why You Should Grow Your Own Weed

Having the legal ability to homegrow is a vital part of any legalization legislation as it allows the consumer to have some control over their access without having to pay retail medicinal prices, trade, or delve into the gray area. It is important to remember that Marijuana plants can exhibit very strong smells, so if you are looking to set up a little grow room inside make sure the landlord and any family members will not be bothered by its presence. Otherwise it could be lights out, right when things are about to get exciting.

Related article: A Step by Step Guide - Growing Weed Indoors for Beginners

Third: Trade with a friend

Still within the letter of the law is the capability for residents to trade and gift marijuana to any adult over 21 years of age. Maybe your capabilities don’t align with growing your own stash, but you have some friends who do. Perhaps you are growing your favorite strain and someone else is growing a different cultivar. The ability to trade time, energy and other cannabis has great potential to bring the District Cannabis culture together. I have been to a number of social events where people are exchanging and even giving away this magic herb. Sometimes looking for someone to trade with is as easy as asking your neighbor. Sharing is caring.

Fourth: Know someone who knows someone.

If you already had a good hook up then the decriminalization of marijuana probably just made you feel a little safer driving home from your dealer’s place. Buying pot off the black market is still illegal in the District, but it is probably the best value. Things have gotten more competitive with accessible medical dispensaries and semi-legal operations openly selling promotional items and gifting marijuana to anyone willing to take a little risk. I always enjoyed the relationships that came from regularly buying marijuana even if they were only based in access and convenience. The disadvantages may include:

  • Being overcharged depending on your relationship with the dealer.
  • Lack of visibility into the quality of the product.
  • Drawing unnecessary attention for a criminal activity.

And Finally: The Gray Market

In a city of Red and Blue politics the green situation has gotten a lot grayer. Since the passage of Prop 71 and its ambiguity on where to purchase recreational cannabis, a whole new industry of “gifting” was born. With varying levels of risk, options such as delivery, meet-ups, cannabis pop-ups and even publicly accessible storefronts will be happy to meet all of the pot buying fantasies you have had since watching “Half Baked” for the first time. Working an apparent loophole in the legislation, these ventures operate under the premise that they are selling you a variety of items, from tee shirts, to art, and stickers and gifting you a free bag of pot.

Finding one is as easy as a simple web search but be aware that these are not actually legal methods of purchasing cannabis. There have been a number of circumstances where pop-up events have been raided and stores have been shut down. In most of these circumstances the organizers of the event and managers of the stores are charged with drug distribution charges, but the attendees will usually be let go with a ticket or warning. There are also greater risks of robberies and violence with publicly advertised events with large amounts of cash and product on site. The police aren’t the only thing you have to worry about when you are walking a fine line of legitimate access. 

A note of caution

Cannabis is still a federally illegal substance, and large parts of the District including the national mall and parks are federal land, so remember, it can get tricky from an avenue to another avenue right next to it. If caught with marijuana in these areas, one may still face federal criminal penalties. It is also worth mentioning that public consumption may result in a misdemeanor conviction of fines and jail time. Normally, if caught using cannabis in public one is issued a ticket and $25 fine.

Please be wary and cautious when purchasing marijuana and always exercise discretion when obtaining, carrying and using. The best way to ensure progressive legislation across the country is building a culture of conscious use.


Variety is the spice of life and DC has plenty of it. One of the best things about the many options to access cannabis in the District is the great diversity of strains and consumption methods available. With the capability to accommodate medical marijuana patients from any state, it makes sense to follow the legitimate path to obtaining a medical card. The application process may take a little patience but the renewal process is more efficient. Many dispensaries are trying out delivery services to better serve their customers. However you obtain your cannabis, please enjoy it responsibly and have a great time.

About the Author

Michael Devine is a DC metro native with coast to coast cannabis experience. In this new weed order he believes entertaining, educational content is the best way to bring new light and awareness to a growing cannabis culture. His work is focused on dispelling the taboos and misinformation that has been so prevalent in our country for the last century. J. Michael enjoys gardening, crossword puzzles and exploring the mysteries of the universe. Stay tuned for more articles.