Washington is a helluva town. Art, music, history, nature, nightlife- we’ve got it all, and naturally, you’d enjoy these more with a bit of that primo cannabino to put some pep in that step. But hold your horse there, Hoss! DC’s laws are much more restrictive than, say, New York, where you’re allowed to spark up any place you can smoke a cigarette…and then there are further complications. Let’s get those out of the way so I can tell you about my favorite places to explore while stoned in DC!
Is Public Cannabis Use Allowed in DC?
No, it is not legal to smoke marijuana publicly anywhere in Washington DC. However, the fine for getting caught is only $25, which effectively means a pedestrian can smoke anywhere if you’re willing to risk the ticket. Except for federal land! Federal rules apply to federal lands and cannabis is not yet federally legal! That means marijuana possession is illegal in these areas and you could face arrest for smoking there. We’re gonna come back to that in a minute.
Time and day of the week play an important factor, obviously. There are plenty of nightlife spots in DC like Adams Morgan, U St, Dupont Circle, H Street, or the Southwest Waterfront where you’re unlikely to face complaints stepping out of a bar, club, or music venue at night to smoke, despite a significant law enforcement presence. I’ve got lots of memories smoking outside 9:30 Club even before I71 legalized cannabis in Washington, same with Anthem’s smoking area at the Deadmau5 show a couple years ago.
For that matter, hotels and apartments with designated smoking areas away from their lobby entrances, like the many rooftop terraces on buildings across the city, are also unlikely to be bothered by a quick sesh. The views of the city and heavier winds during the sweltering summer make rooftops like these some my favorite places to smoke, if you can find access. Check out the Eaton Hotel, in particular- they hosted all of National Cannabis Festival’s events this year.
Avoid Smoking On Federal Land
Your first concern should be whether or not you’re on federal property- here’s an awesome app to help you out. The bad news is, if you’re looking for cool destinations to go smoke, these are almost uniformly located on federal land. The National Mall and the Smithsonians are all on federal property, plus they have lots of kids around and heavy foot traffic during the day. Can you get away with a jay out by the Reflecting Pool after the sun goes down? I’m sure I have, but would be remiss to not acknowledge the risk.
There’s way more federal property in DC than the Capitol, White House, and the National Mall, though. Rock Creek Park is the biggest natural wild space, popular with fitness and nature enthusiasts alike, but all it’s disjointed parts are federal land. How about down by the water? The feds own upwards of 80% of the District’s waterfronts, Georgetown Waterfront Park. The Tidal Basin is too, so you can forget about getting high there while you check out the cherry blossoms. The thriving new Southwest Waterfront appears to be an exception, but smoking is prohibited on the piers. Go a block up onto Maine St and you should be fine, or cross at 12th St to the large stairway.
Federal land isn’t the Gentleman’s only concern, though. If I’m smoking, it’s cuz I’m trying to chill, not be hassled. So I also make it a point to avoid the following as best I can:
- High foot traffic areas. You’d put some people off strolling along M St in Georgetown with a doobie lit, or 18th St in Adams Morgan, at least until evening.
- Families/children, so the Smithsonians and Zoo areas are right out until late night.
- Downtown office areas until evening on weekdays, those dudes get really bummed out if you’re getting high in front of them while they capitalism.
- College campuses, but that’s just cuz I’m old, you might not be. Though I might stroll around American University during the summer playing Pokemon Go, never while classes are on.
- Churches and other religious buildings. There’s lots of beautiful ones to admire in DC, especially the grounds of the National Cathedral, but they’d probably take exception to smoking on their stoops.
- Security/Law Enforcement, cuz duh.
I’ve never had a problem smoking along quiet residential streets during the daytime, I just keep walking and stay mindful of my surroundings. At night, pretty much anywhere is fair game. With all that out of the way, let’s get to some of my favorite spots to explore while stoned in DC!
C&O Canal in Georgetown
The C&O Canal in Georgetown is probably the most popular smoke spot in Washington DC. In fact, I ran into three people smoking back there while I was visiting for this article! 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, steps to sit on, and you can look at the green water and think about how gross it is while you toke. Maybe look at the cool bridges and architecture instead? 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. Afterwards, you’ve got a ton of restaurants, shopping, a movie theater, Georgetown Waterfront Park, and even the Exorcist Stairs to visit. FYI, it’s secluded back there, so I’d avoid the canal entirely at night.
Meridian Hill Park Drum Circle
Also known to the locals as Malcolm X Park, the weekly drum circle at Meridian Hill Park is a Washington institution that goes back to the 60s and the fight for civil rights. In recent years, it’s better known for being a 420-friendly party, but its 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 3pm 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 still be some folks discreetly smoking in the corners. In the Gentleman’s esteemed opinion, there isn’t a more authentic DC experience than Meridian Hill Park’s Drum Circle. Protip, there won’t be many vendors in your immediate area, so bring your own water.
Trump International Hotel
Oh, sorry, I got this list mixed up with my 5 Favorite Buildings to Wee On. Hold on, here’s the right list…
How does the sound of 443 acres of gorgeous gardens in the middle of DC strike you? Tragically overlooked by tourists since it’s nowhere near the National Mall, the National Arboretum is easily one of my favorite destinations in DC. Established by an act of congress back in 1927 and administered by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, the Arboretum hosts the National Herb Garden, the National Grove of State Trees, the National Bonsai Museum, the Flowering Tree Walk, the Capitol Columns, and much more. Now, it is federal land, so possession and smoking could get you in trouble, but foot traffic is typically low. The National Arboretum is open every day except Christmas from 8am-5pm.
GW Parkway Scenic Overlooks
I don’t think there’s a better view of the city than the scenic overlooks along the GW Parkway. Back in the day, I’d drive up to one on Saturday nights and listen to the live concert series on the classic rock station and completely unwind from the week. Only accessible by automobile, its also the riskiest place on this list to smoke on account of the whole thing being a speed trap, and thus heavily patrolled by the federal Park Police officers. You’re much better off checking these out with a designated driver so you can imbibe beforehand. I wouldn’t count on being able to rideshare your way there and back, and they’re so small it’d be weird if you didn’t have a car to sit in, anyway. Despite all these restrictions, the GW Parkway Scenic Overlooks are so incredibly breathtaking that they’re well worth the logistical hassle.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
You can see a small island from the Francis Scott Key Bridge that connects Georgetown with Rosslyn, Virginia, and there is a way to get down there, but you have to drive. Theodore Roosevelt Island is a charming little nature preserve that was repurposed from the neglected farmland of Mason Island in the 1930s into a memorial to honor the legacy of conservation left by the President that created our National Parks, among other accomplishments. I think of it as Turtle Island on account of the time I saw a big turtle there. True story! Foot traffic is typically light, so you’ll get to wander the trails at your own pace. Theodore Roosevelt Island is open year-round from 6am-10pm. Bear in mind that, again, this is federal land. Bring your binoculars for bird-watching!