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

September 11, 2023

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

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:

  • Have up to two ounces of marijuana.
  • Give one ounce or less of marijuana to another person who's also 21 or older, as long as you don't get paid or trade anything for it.
  • Grow up to six marijuana plants at home, but only three of them can be fully grown.
  • Own stuff like bongs, rolling papers, or cigar wrappers that are used for marijuana, as long as you have one ounce or less of marijuana with them.
  • Smoke or use marijuana on your own private property.

Living in Washington, D.C. comes with its perks when it comes to accessing and growing cannabis. However, being a tourist has its own advantages. With  millions of visitors coming to D.C. to explore the Smithsonian Museums and other attractions, it only makes sense for visitors to have the opportunity to legally enjoy some cannabis during their trip.

Weed tourism complements the wide range of free museums and unique cultural experiences available in the District. Who wouldn't want to indulge a little and then appreciate some of the world's most magnificent art and historical collections? Whether you're a local or a visitor, anyone interested in a relaxed, safe experience while exploring the sights can do so with ease.

First: Medical Marijuana Card

 If you want to get access to high-quality, regulated cannabis in a legal way, getting a medical marijuana card might be your best bet.

You need to apply to the DC Medical Marijuana program, which is now managed by the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA). To apply, you'll need a written referral from a healthcare provider and proof that you live in D.C. Once you've filled out the application, provided the required documents, photos, and referral information, you'll also need to pay a $100 registration fee.

After that, it's a waiting game. I remember waiting for almost three months to get my card five years ago. One interesting thing to note is that D.C. dispensaries accept patients with medical cards from any other state. So, if you're visiting from another state and have the right documentation, D.C. dispensaries will be happy to serve you.

Patients who are looking for specific levels of potency and alternative cannabis products like topicals and vaporizers often prefer the quality control standards established by the medical marijuana industry.

Second: Grow it yourself

If you don't have a medical card, you can still legally cultivate up to six cannabis plants at home, but only three of them can be mature at a time. This approach might save you a bit of time compared to waiting for a medical card application to be processed, and it gives you a sense of pride in controlling the process, although the time difference isn't significant. Growing high-quality cannabis requires both art and scientific knowledge, and it can be quite expensive, so ensure you're ready to take on the responsibility.

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

I remember when Prop 71 was initially passed, many people, including those who didn't use cannabis, tried their hand at growing marijuana plants. Friends would offer you a quarter-ounce of their medium-grade homegrown cannabis, and you'd accept it graciously, hoping it wouldn't taste unpleasant.

Having the legal ability to grow cannabis at home is a crucial aspect of any legalization law, as it empowers consumers to have some control over their access without paying high medical prices, engaging in trade, or navigating the legal gray areas. Keep in mind that marijuana plants can emit strong odors, so if you plan to set up a small indoor grow room, make sure your landlord and any family members are comfortable with it. Otherwise, your plans could be disrupted just when things are getting interesting.

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

Third: Trade with a friend

Remaining fully compliant with the law, D.C. residents can engage in legal exchanges and gift marijuana to any adult aged 21 or older. If you lack the means to cultivate your own supply, you may have friends who can help. Perhaps you're cultivating a particular strain, while someone else is nurturing a different variety. This trade of resources, effort, and cannabis has the potential to foster a stronger sense of community within the District's cannabis culture.

I've personally participated in social events where people freely shared and even gifted this enchanting herb. Sometimes, all it takes to find a trade partner is a simple conversation with 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 the backdrop of a politically divided city where Red and Blue ideologies clash, the status of cannabis, often represented in green, has become decidedly murkier. Following the passage of Prop 71, which left ambiguity surrounding recreational cannabis purchase locations, a novel industry emerged – the realm of "gifting." Within this sphere, various options like delivery services, meet-ups, cannabis pop-ups, and even openly accessible storefronts have sprouted, promising to fulfill all your long-held pot buying fantasies, perhaps kindled since watching "Half Baked" for the first time.

Operating within a perceived loophole of the legislation, these enterprises maintain that they're selling an array of items, from t-shirts and art to stickers, while generously gifting you a bag of marijuana. While finding these operations is as simple as a web search, it's important to note that these methods aren't genuinely legal ways to purchase cannabis.

There have been instances where pop-up events faced police raids, and stores met closure. In many cases, event organizers and store managers faced drug distribution charges, while attendees usually received tickets or warnings. Moreover, publicly advertised events with substantial cash and product on-site pose heightened risks of robberies and violence. When navigating this fine line for legitimate access, law enforcement isn't the sole concern.

A note of caution

Cannabis remains a federally prohibited substance, and significant portions of Washington, D.C., such as the national mall and parks, fall under federal jurisdiction. It's crucial to understand that merely crossing from one street to another could lead to legal complications. Possessing marijuana in these federal areas can result in severe federal criminal penalties. Furthermore, public consumption can lead to misdemeanor convictions, involving fines and potential jail time, although usually, public cannabis use results in a ticket and a $25 fine.

Exercise caution and discretion when purchasing, carrying, and using marijuana. Building a culture of responsible and mindful use is key to driving progressive cannabis legislation nationwide.


Diversity is the essence of life, and Washington, D.C. offers an abundance of it when it comes to cannabis. One of the most appealing aspects of the myriad ways to access cannabis in the District is the remarkable range of strains and consumption methods at your disposal. Moreover, the District's openness to accommodating medical marijuana patients from any state underscores the wisdom of pursuing the legitimate path to obtaining a medical card. While the application process may require some patience, the subsequent renewal process tends to be more efficient.

Furthermore, to enhance customer convenience, many dispensaries are exploring delivery services, which can be a boon to those seeking a hassle-free experience. Regardless of how you acquire your cannabis, it's essential to partake responsibly and ensure that you have an enjoyable and safe 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.

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