Can you smoke weed in DC publicly (2023)?

Cannabis is legal in Washington DC, but the question that often confuses tourists and residents is: can you smoke weed in DC legally, and if so, where? 

DC weed laws prohibit smoking weed in public, but after asking dozens of local DC residents, I got the exact opposite answer: you can, just don’t be obvious or ignorant. 

Whether I’m taking my evening walks alongside the Georgetown Waterfront or doing some weekend biking on the Capital Crescent Trail, I’m always smelling and seeing people light up cannabis in public with zero issues. In this guide, I’ll give you tips on where to smoke weed in DC and go over the legal ramifications if you do decide to light up in public.

DC wants you to smoke weed at home

Initiative 71 states: smoking, eating, and even drinking marijuana in any public space or space to which the public is invited is illegal (including bars, restaurants, cigar lounges, and hookah lounges).  Public space is also defined as any street, sidewalk, alley, park, or parking area whether you are in your vehicle or on foot (§ 48–911.01.) If you are caught smoking cannabis in public then you could be imprisoned for up to 60 days or be fined in the range of $25 - $500 (§ 22–3571.01.).

Where to Smoke Weed in DC during the Day

It is legal to smoke cannabis in Washington DC, but as far as the law is concerned Uncle Sam wants you to smoke in the privacy of your own home. The issue is there are approximately half a million tourists that visit DC each month staying in non-smoking hotels, not to mention the thousands of DC residents living in non-smoking lease agreements. So whether we like it or not, thousands of people have no choice but to smoke in public. I asked a few DC residents their thoughts on the best places to smoke cannabis in DC safely and some local tips to help you stay incognito in the process.

Smoke on one-way streets

One of the best recommendations I got for smoking weed in DC was to walk on the sidewalk facing one-way traffic. If you walk against one-way traffic you will have a clear field of vision to all the cars coming your direction. This leaves no possibility of any vehicles coming up from behind. Once you get familiar with which one-way streets are great to smoke on if you time it right there will be traffic making it even easier to spot any potential risk. DC morning rush hour starts at 5 a.m. and lasts until 4 p.m. and from I-395 to the Potomac River Freeway, you are going to get plenty of slow-rolling traffic, perfect for a low-key smoke.


Smoke at DC friendly Cannabis Events


There are dozens of DC weed events that are privately hosted, such as 420 brunches, cannabis painting classes, and even stoner open mics that all allow smoking cannabis publicly. Some of these events even offer free cannabis gifts (learn what is gifting in DC). These I71 gifts are meant for you to smoke during the events and will be included in the event ticket. Since these events are privately hosted, you can legally smoke cannabis on the premises.


Weed smoking restaurants in DC


If you’re looking for a place to smoke and get your eat on, I recommend checking out a few select DC weed restaurants that are hosted as private events. These restaurants offer not only THC infused foods but also free pre-rolls to smoke before your meal. All of these public locations allow for smoking on site, and you can even purchase cannabis gifts here as well. Buying gifted cannabis has its own set of rules, so for the full break down, check out our guide on how to buy weed in DC.


Cannabis Safe-Use Facilities and Summer Garden Events

The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022 signed by Mayor Bowser is set to open cannabis smoke friendly environments by early 2024. These Safe-use facilities (DC weed lounges) will be located inside of medical marijuana dispensaries and will offer music and food, where you can safely consume medical marijuana. The only requirement is that you have a DC medical marijuana card.

The Amendment Act also will give endorsement licenses to public venues for Summer Garden Events, where rooftop and patio settings will offer a space to smoke weed publicly in DC for the first time. Summer garden events will also offer live music, food, and even karaoke.


Smoke at the C&O Canal in Georgetown


The C&O Canal in Georgetown is probably the most popular smoke spot in Washington DC. It is federal land so you can get in serious trouble, but in practice, this is where stoners go when they’re in Georgetown. It’s quiet, foot traffic is low, there’s a ton of shade and steps to sit on, and you can smoke to the ambiance of water, bridges, and architecture. There’s a convenient entrance to the canal if you go south on Wisconsin Ave, a block away from M Street, to the right of the bridge.

The Meridian Hill Park Drum Circle


When it comes to smoking cannabis in Washington DC there is no better place in my opinion than the weekly drum circle at Meridian Hill Park. In recent years, it’s better known for being a 420-friendly party, but it’s so much more than that. The drum circle, to me, is a place of community, of coming together. It draws an incredibly diverse crowd of all ages and ethnicities, but for a few hours, you can leave your labels at the door and revel in our common humanity. It starts at 3 pm every Sunday in the courtyard by Joan of Arc’s statue and goes late into the night. It’s a family-friendly event during the day, but there will be some folks discreetly smoking in the corners. 

Places to Smoke in DC at Night

If you tend to smoke near evening or later at night, the perfect place to do this is in a crowded adult environment. Think clusters of happy-hour bars and lounges, where there is loud music and plenty of locals unwinding. It’s common to smell people lighting up as the ambiance is more care-free and even the law tends to look past it for the most part. Your best bet is to watch the locals and go with the flow, and always be mindful of any families.

Logan Circle/14th Street

Stretching from Logan Circle to U st and beyond is the 14th Street corridor. It is just far enough from the Orange and Blue metro line so it isn’t overrun with teens looking to party from Northern VA and Maryland. This makes it the perfect place to stroll and smoke while just soaking in the beautiful turn-of-the-century townhouses and the dozen of bars and restaurants operating in the converted historic buildings. 

Connecticut Ave NW on Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle is one of my favorite places to people-watch and is home to the famous stretch of gay-owned businesses on 17th St. If you take a walk down Connecticut Ave NW in the evenings or nighttime, you’ll get an amazing atmosphere full of music and socialites that will probably be smoking weed publicly with no shame. The later it gets in Dupont the more livelier it becomes, and that’s always the best time to smoke. 

Night Club Patios

If you are looking to smoke and enjoy a night out in a DC lounge or club, there are a few hidden gems that don’t mind if their patrons smoke on the outdoor patio. Clubs such as Eighteenth Street Lounge and Rosebar have a very welcoming environment and outlook with smoking cannabis, but only in their outdoor lounges. Don’t bother calling and asking, I recommend grabbing a few drinks and just waiting until the clubs fill up and you begin seeing other people smoke first. Rosebar’s outdoor patio is filled with the aroma of cannabis right round the clubs peak hour. Have some drinks, enjoy some good music, and smoke in peace - why not?

Where not to smoke weed in DC

Knowing where to smoke marijuana in DC is important if you do decide to take the risk. Remember cannabis is still illegal on a Federal level, and 29% of DC is all Federal property  (approximately 18 square miles). So if you are weighing the risk of smoking, do your best to not smoke on any Federal property such as:

  • National parks
  • Military property
  • Museums
  • Public housing projects.

Here are some other areas you want to avoid when it comes to lighting up cannabis in public:

  • Family-friendly areas
  • Downtown office areas
  • College campuses
  • Churches and Religious buildings
  • Security/Law enforcement zones

Final Thoughts

Is it legal to smoke weed in DC? Yes, but the law pushes DC residents to smoke from the privacy of their own home. With thousands of tourists and residents living in non-smoking hotels or lease-agreements, this forces locals and tourists to find safe places to smoke cannabis in public, even though they are technically not allowed to.

Keytakeway: You can’t technically smoke cannabis in DC publicly, but DC residents say you can, it’s just best to not be obvious or ignorant. If you are smoking during the day you want to find a nice one-way street and walk on the sidewalk facing on-coming traffic. That way you can smoke safely without any cars coming from behind. 

I tend to see and smell the most smoking done around evening times in heavily crowded social scenes. Places such as Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Georgetown, Adams Morgan, all have a ton of people lighting up in public. The main thing to remember is to just watch the crowd and go with the flow, or worst case just ask any local and they will tell you the best places on that street.