How to Buy Weed in DC Safely in 2023

How to Buy Weed in DC 2023

Weed is legal in DC, but because DC is not a state it has some of the most confusing marijuana laws of any jurisdiction.

This is due to Congress’s refusal to allow the local DC government to use funds to create a tax-and-regulate system for recreational weed (Harris Rider Bill).

The Result: The DC community developed its own recreational gifting market, which currently dominates with over 100 stores for you to choose from that don’t require a medical marijuana card. 

Buy today

No medical card
no problem ...

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How to buy

First time buyer?
definitely read this ...

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DC law

How a community
built an entire market ...

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Gifting vs medical
why I choose gifting ...

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Fortunately, the recent March 2023 passing of the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act will allow many of these I71 gifting stores to finally become medical dispensaries by early 2024.

In this guide, you will learn how to buy weed in DC and some of the best places to buy from.

DC weed buyers guide

I’ve been a DC resident for over 20 years now and when it comes to buying weed you have options.

Bad news: there are over 100 stores you can buy weed from in DC, and while I haven’t visited them all, there are dozens you should avoid.

Good news: I’ve picked out the top 20 most trusted DC recreational weed brands, that have buds so nice they would give LA dispensaries a run for their money.

1. Most Popular: Legacy

weed in dc
Available Now: Mandarin Cookiez

Verified Brand: Over 2,500 5-star Google reviews, and known to carry some of the best weed in DC.

Who this is for: You want strains that rival LA dispensaries while shopping in a New York style street art gallery.

Why Legacy is the best: Legacy is the most sought-after DC recreational cannabis store currently in 2023. The buds here are always fresh, the terpenes are rich, and they always bring some new trending designer strains each month for me to indulge in. The entire store is stocked with real street art so I always find myself browsing both the art and the buds. You will find flowers, edibles, pre-rolls, and concentrates.

2. Most Trusted: Gifted

dc recreational weed
Available Now: Jack Herer Strain

Verified Brand: Over 3,000 5-star Google reviews, and known to carry some of the best DC recreational weed.

Who this is for: You want to shop at one of the most trusted cannabis retailers in the DC community, which has some of the most dank buds I’ve ever tried for an amazing price.

Why Gifted is the best: The reason I love Gifted Curators is not only because they have some of the best strains in Adams Morgan, but because of the amazing staff, environment, and customer service. If ever there is an issue (there rarely ever is), they always take care of me no questions asked. The buds are always fresh and dank, and they also carry pre-rolls, concentrates, some potent edibles.

A few more favorites ...

How to buy weed in DC

When buying marijuana in DC, you generally have two options: recreational (gifting) or medicinal.

The tips below are for buying recreational weed in DC without a medical card but the same rules apply for edibles in DC as well. If you want to buy medical marijuana you need to self-certify here.

DC’s recreational gifting market does have its own set of unique rules created by the community.

By 2024 many of these recreational gifting stores will convert into medical dispensaries, but for now, just follow these 3 tips when buying cannabis in our Nations Captiol:

Tip 1: Avoid the word "buy"

As of 2023, more than 90% of the cannabis market in DC is going to be gifting (recreational).

Whether you text, call, or show up in-store, remember the most important rule and that’s to never say the words “I want to buy weed” or “Let me buy an eighth“.

buying weed in dc
It's called gifting for a reason guys

That’s a sure way to get gently escorted out of the store by security.

While marijuana is legal in DC the selling of it is not recreationally, so I71 gifting stores must protect themselves and you by gifting cannabis not selling it.

While this may seem bizarre, it’s been this way for the past 8 years. When I need to re-up on my stash I literally just walk down the street to Adams Morgan to my local gifting store (Gifted Curators) and grab what I need just like any other dispensary.

Yes, there are a few stores you definitely want to avoid but you can check out the DC community’s top-rated and safest recreational gifting stores above.

What is gifting?
The Initiative 71 law that was passed in 2014 allows DC residents to gift up to an ounce of cannabis. The DC community used this to create a loophole in which they sell you an item such as a t-shirt, art print, or sticker for the same price as the marijuana. Once you purchase this item then you receive the weed as a gift. This market is currently the primary way to buy cannabis in DC due to the superior quality, prices, and no need for a medical marijuana card.

Tip 2: Master the verbiage

Why does verbiage matter?

In order to stay legally compliant, I71 gifting stores can never sell you marijuana, they can only gift it.

The actual gifting process is done through clever usage of words.

how to buy weed in dc
Buy the art print and get free weed - simple

One of the best ways to start a conversation with your budtender is by asking to see their “I71 Gift Menu“.

This lets them know that you are ordering a gift and you understand it’s a gift and not a purchase.

Here is an example of how a conversation will go when placing an order:

You: “Hi I would like to see your I71 Gift Menu Please”

Budtender: “sure here are all our gifts”

You: “Ok I would like to buy this $70 art print and take this 8th of Tropicana Cookies as my gift”

Budtender: “Sure no problem let me ring you up for this art print first”

Notice the unique verbiage there? You have to always refer to the marijuana as a gift and the item (sticker, art print, etc) as the item you are purchasing.

If you are confused about what item is attached to what gift you can always ask. For example, you can say: “I am looking to buy your art print but which art print do I purchase to get a free 8th gift?”

The reason I love gifting stores is each store has its own unique product. For example, Gifted Curators and Legacy sells digital art prints whereas other brands may give you music, seeds, or motivational speeches. Either way, you are getting something free today!

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Tip 3: Understand the law

Most gifting storefronts have very welcoming budtenders that will gently guide you through the transaction.

To make the process a little smoother for you, it’s important you understand the law.

dc weed laws
Make sure you have your ID ready

Initiative 71 requires that you are 21 years of age, so be prepared to have your ID ready, and for them to take a photo of it as well (this is common with all dispensaries).

If placing a delivery order, you may be required to take a photo of your ID and a selfie with you holding your ID. 

Additionally, I71 allows you to possess and transfer up to one ounce of weed, so that will be your legal buying limit as well.

Pro-tip: If this is your first time buying in DC, 100 stores to choose from can be overwhelming. Here are 20 of the best and most vetted brands we trust in the community.

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Is it safe?
Absolutely. Some gifting storefronts actually look identical if not better than a medical dispensary. The gifting market is considered a gray market, but the liabilities fall upon the business not the consumer. I visit these stores regularly for the past 8 years and have always had an amazing experience. You can see thousands of positive reviews on Google as well.

Buying step by step

Now it’s time for you to finally buy some weed. Here are the most popular ways to buy in DC currently.

If you do not have a medical marijuana card I recommend shopping at a gifting storefront only because you save money on delivery fees and they always have amazing deals. If you don’t mind the delivery fees then definitely check out my recommendations for best DC weed delivery.

You may be confused about the meet-up option but that came about during the pandemic, due to storefronts closing down in 2020. Essentially, meet up is the same as delivery you just both agree upon a safe public location for the weed to be delivered.

Steps for buying in-store:

  1. Find a trusted DC smoke shop to visit such as the ones recommended and verified above.
  2. Make sure you have your ID to prove you are at least 21 years of age.
  3. Go to the store and on arrival, you will be screened for your ID just like any dispensary.
  4. Next, you want to ask the budtender to see their I71-compliant gift menu.
  5. Once you know what you want you can simply ask: “What do I need to purchase to receive this free marijuana gift” and the budtender will point you in the right direction.

If you are ready to buy here are some of DC’s most trusted brands.

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DC weed laws 2023

Legally, there should only be one place you can buy weed from in DC and that’s a medical marijuana dispensary.

So how in the world did the gifting market come to be the dominant way to purchase weed in DC?

Here is your complete guide to cannabis laws in Washington DC, and how they effect you as a buyer in 2023.

Commercialization 2023

On March 22, 2023, The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2021 became law, which will bring about a new phase for commercial marijuana in Washington DC.

This would finally allow many of the I71 gifting stores or delivery services to apply for medical marijuana licenses.

50% of the licenses will be reserved for social equity applicants that have been previously incarcerated, or who have lived in a “disproportionately impacted area” for at least 10 years.

This will bring about some new changes to the DC cannabis space that I’m particularly excited about. By the end of 2023 and early 2024, you can expect to see some new and exciting cannabis markets emerge:

  1. There will be medical online delivery services coming to DC.
  2. Safe-use facilities will be endorsed for cannabis-tasting events
  3. Safe-use facilities will be endorsed for cannabis-based cooking classes.
  4. There will be summer garden events that allow sales in private outdoor spaces.

By 2024, we won’t just have new medical marijuana dispensaries in DC, we will have some amazing new experiences such as tasting events, cooking classes, and garden events.

The gifting stores have 90 days to submit for a medical license and after 315 days, the unregulated stores remaining will be subject to civil enforcement.

What does this mean for you? Whether you are a tourist, resident, or visiting from Maryland or Virginia (DMV),  you can still pop into any gifting store today and buy weed with only a valid ID proving you are 21 years of age (no medical card is required). By 2024 this may change as many of the gifting stores may transition into medical dispensaries. 

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Why was weed
decriminalized in DC?

In 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published a report that revealed some alarming statistics about marijuana arrests in Washington DC.

“The War on Marijuana in Black and White” report revealed that Washington D.C had the second highest racial disparity in marijuana arrests, following Iowa.

According to District of Columbia attorney, Joseph Scrofano, DC arrested about 1,489 African Americans to 186 white Americans per 100,000 residents.

Scrofano’s stated: “This made the city’s black residents more than eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than its white residents. The report’s findings led to a large public outcry and the city council acted in response by decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana through the MORE Act in 2020”.

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How was weed
decriminalized in DC?

The MORE Act 2020 (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act) was a groundbreaking piece of legislation that began the end to cannabis prohibition in Washington DC.

For decades, the Federal government treated marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, similar to Cocaine and Heroin.

A Schedule 1 drug is considered to have a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and at that time there were over 36 states that used cannabis for medical purposes.

The MORE Act finally removed cannabis as a Schedule 1, effectively decriminalizing cannabis on a Federal level, while also removing past federal cannabis convictions.

What used to be jail time for possession of an ounce of weed or less was now a simple $25 citation in Washington DC.

This began the normalization of cannabis in DC and paved the way for the DCMJ and many other DC marijuana advocates to set in motion what would be the birth of the current DC marijuana market in 2023.

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The DCMJ and Initiative 71

In 2014 the DC Cannabis Campaign (DCMJ) submitted approximately 57,000 collected signatures in favor of enacting Initiative 71.

Much like California’s Proposition 64, this would allow DC residents to possess, consume, and grow cannabis legally.

Initiative 71 won by a landslide 70% vote and finally become law at 12:01 am, February 2015.

Initiative 71 allows anyone 21 years of age or older to legally:

  • Possess two ounces or less of marijuana;
  • Use marijuana on private property;
  • Transfer one ounce or less of marijuana to another person, as long as:
    (1) no money, goods or services are exchanged; and
    (2) the recipient is 21 years of age or older;
  • Cultivate within his or her primary residence up to six marijuana plants,
    no more than three of which are mature.

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The I71 Delimma

I still remember the day Initiative 71 was passed and more specifically, the confusion within the community.

Initiative 71 allows you to transfer, smoke, and possess, but not buy recreationally. 

California residents were facing the same dilemma in 2016 as Proposition 64 and Initiative 71 were very similar in nature.

Eugenio Garcia, CEO of Cannabis Now, stated: “If you can’t legally buy it, how are you supposed to possess it without being forced to do something illegal? It’s like the law puts you in a position where you have to obtain it illegally. Then assuming you don’t get caught, once you obtain it you’re legally safe.”

The result was thousands of DC residents and tourists who wanted cannabis and only 7 medical dispensaries to serve them. 

This put a huge imbalance in supply and demand and ultimately is what brought about the gifting market that you buy weed from today in DC.

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The rise of I71 gifting

The first gifting operations to hit DC were in the form of pop-up events in 2016.

You would go to these events and buy a sticker for $60 and then be gifted a free eighth of weed

The gifting market shifted and in 2017 began opening up DC smoke shops that would be the first-ever brick-and-mortar gifting stores.

Fast forward 6 years and there are now over 100 gifting stores and delivery services in DC, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV).

Currently, in 2023, there is too much supply (stores) and not enough demand, so ultimately the Medical dispensaries saw a drastic decline in sales.

The DC Mayor, Muriel Bowser then tried to divert sales back to Medical Dispensaries in 2022 by signing the Medical Marijuana Self-Certification Emergency Amendment Act of 2022.

This basically allows any DC resident to self-certify their own patient application without the need for a physician.

On the same day the self-certification went into effect, ABRA announced in a Friday press release that the government had created a joint cannabis task force that would give gifting businesses a 30-day grace period before they began cracking down.

Fortunately, the Task-Force venture was protested by citizens, and ultimately gifting stores were voted to remain without government interference.

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I71 Gifting vs Medical

If you are new to Washington DC then gifting may seem strange at first. 

I’ve been shopping at both medical dispensaries in DC and gifting shops for the last 8 years and there are some pros and cons to both.

Let’s dive in and take a look at some of the key differences so you can make the best decision.

What is gifting?

DC gifting stores are actual brick-and-mortar locations that sell recreational marijuana.

Correction, they do not technically “sell”.

Using the Initiative 71 law they found a unique loophole. 

So what they do is sell you a certain item such as a t-shirt, art print, digital download, or sticker, for what price the weed would be, and then “gift” you the weed after.

Clever, huh?

The simplest way to explain it is as a consumer you are technically buying weed and getting a free item such as a sticker. But from a legal standpoint, you are buying the sticker and getting the weed for free to stay within the legal requirements of Initiative  71.

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Barrier to entry

DC gifting marijuana

The above image shows real strains from a medical dispensary and from a gifting store. 

As you can see both Gifting and Medical have trichome-rich buds that look top-shelf.

The reason why the gifting market became the more popular option over medical is simply because there are fewer requirements.

For a medical dispensary, there is still an application of self-certification, but with gifting you can walk into any store with an ID proving you are 21 years of age and walk out with cannabis that day – no questions asked.

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Regulated vs unregulated

One of the major key differences between I71 gifting stores and medical dispensaries is the regulation.

DC medical marijuana dispensaries uses a cannabis regulatory system known as Metrc. This software uses a secure database to track and trace cannabis from seed, growth, harvest, processing, testing, transport, and sale.

If any batches were found to be contaminated by mold or pesticides, they can easily track customers down to recall harmful buds, or at least let you know.

In the I71 gifting space, there is no regulation and no way to inspect the quality of cannabis for pesticides, mold, and contaminants.

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Sense of community

Don’t get me wrong, cannabis is cannabis and in the end, you just want some good buds, right?

Over the past 8 years since the I71 gifting market emerged, I found myself shopping more at gifting stores.

This doesn’t mean I shop at all the gifting stores, only a select few.

There is a sense of community and belonging with the gifted shops that the medical dispensaries just can’t replace for me.

I know the budtenders by name and I get strains more suited to my personal needs. Medicinal cannabis tends to have a higher % of CBD so the psychoactive components are a bit muddled.

If you like the latest trending nugs like RS11 strain or White Truffle strain you definitely want to opt for the gifting scene. 

But as I mentioned before, there are a ton of bad storefronts you definitely want to avoid. Make sure to only visit our communities most trusted brands.

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DC weed delivery

Final thoughts

For all of you that want to cross your t’s and dot your i’s, this is the full summary on how to buy weed in DC as of 2023.

  1. As far as finding the best DC weed stores or delivery make sure to visit our recommended vendors. This is going to save you a lot of time and headaches.
  2. Make sure you fully understand Initiative 71 and how to buy marijuana in DC legally through proper verbiage.
  3. If you aren’t sure whether or not to go with medical or recreational check to see the key differences.

DC weed laws tend to change rapidly, so to does your buying options. Whether you are a tourist or just passing through the DMV, check back for all the latest updates on the DC cannabis market.

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