What Does Gifting Weed Mean in DC?

You may have heard the word “gifting” thrown around as an option for recreational cannabis in DC. But what is gifting in DC, and exactly how does it all work? 


Gifting is the verbiage used by DC dispensaries that are currently operating in the “Grey”. Initiative 71 allows you to gift marijuana, but not buy or sell. So in order to “buy” recreational cannabis in DC, you have to first buy an item such as a sticker, and then be gifted the cannabis at the end.

If you’re still a bit confused, I’ll break down the entire gifting process and loophole.

Pro-tip: With over 100 I71 gifting stores, there are definitely a few you should avoid. Make sure to check our guide on how to buy weed in DC, which shows you the most trusted gifting vendors in DC and how to order in 2023.

Why did the gifting market emerge?

DC weed laws are quite literally the most complex laws out of any state in the US. Initiative 71 legalized consumption, possession, and growing weed in DC in 2015, and shortly after the DC community was hopeful for new legislation to legalize recreational weed.

Unfortunately, Senator Andy Harris of Maryland snuck in an infamous rider knows as the Harris Rider Bill, which blocked DC from using their own budget from creating laws to implement a recreational cannabis market. 

For more information, check out our guide on “Is recreational weed legal in DC” which focuses on new laws pushing for recreational legalization.

With only 7 medical marijuana dispensaries serving over 700,000 DC residents and over 20 million tourist per year, the marijuana market was heavily under served. The first known gifting stores were not stores but actually events known as pop-ups in 2016. 

Shortly after in 2017 the first I71 gifting dispensaries began to emerge, with well over 100 stores now in 2023.

I71 Gifting Loophole Explained

Gifting cannabis is much simpler than you think. The entire gifting market in DC is operating through a loophole in the Initiative 71 law and once you understand the loophole the actual gifting process becomes much easier.

Initiative 71 allows residents to gift up to one ounce of marijuana. That’s the loophole. 

If you think from the gifting dispensaries point of view, they just want to stay compliant legally, so they avoid any legal repercussions. Initiative 71 doesn’t allow you to sell or buy recreational cannabis, so even though you are technically coming to buy weed, you will actually first buy a trivial item such as a sticker, t-shirt, seeds, or digital art print. 

That item will be priced the same as the cannabis you want to buy. For example, if you want to buy an eighth of weed for $50, you will first buy a sticker for $50 and then be gifted the eighth of weed at the end of the transaction.

Gifting etiquette - dos and don'ts



If it’s your first time shopping at a gifting store in DC, it can be a bit nerve wracking since the process is so new and unfamiliar from typical dispensary transactions. I’ve been shopping at gifting stores in DC since they first opened in 2017, and it’s a very simple process.

If you say the wrong things, you will get some hesitant responses from budtenders, so in this section I’ll explain the dos and don'ts of gifting.

Never ask to buy marijuana or any THC products directly.

You want to avoid using the word “buy” with any type of cannabis products. In gifting stores you don’t say “I want to buy some edibles” or “I want to buy an ounce of weed” because under Initiative 71 law this is illegal.

When using the word marijuana, only use it with the word gift. 

When you speak about any of the THC products in a gifting store, always refer to them as gifts. You can say things like “I’m interested in this eighth of OG Kush as a gift, what item do I need to buy to get this eighth gift”.

When you get the lingo down, the gifting process is super simple. Most gifting dispensaries have very welcoming budtenders that will help you through the gifting process if you are new.

Gifting vs medical dispensaries in DC

I’ve been shopping at gifting dispensaries since they first opened, and I prefer them over medical dispensaries. As a DC medical marijuana card holder, that’s saying a lot because I’ve shopped both gifting and medical. The reason I prefer the gifting stores over the medical dispensaries are:

Lower prices: Gifting stores generally have much lower prices compared to a medical dispensary in all categories from edibles in DCconcentrates, and carts.

Stronger product offerings: While gifting stores can get a bad rap because it’s unregulated, many of the more established brands are bringing in some of the best indoors you will find in DC hands down. 

Make sure to check out our list of the best gifting vendors to buy weed in DC from. These are the gifting stores I personally visit monthly, so you’ll be in good hands. Some of these I71 gifting stores have over 4,000 five star google reviews, which is far more reviews than even the medical dispensaries have.

Is it safe to shop at a gifting store in DC?

With over 100 gifting storefronts serving the DC area, it’s a hard question to answer.

There are definitely a few bad gifting stores out there you want to avoid, but for the most part, shopping at a gifting store is just like shopping at any dispensary in DC. They look amazing, there is security at the door, and budtenders to help you. I recommend visiting popular areas like Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle for the safest gifting experience.

From a legal perspective, it’s safe to purchase cannabis through the gifting model. Thousands of DC residents do it every day, and the law enforcement is well aware of it. There are no legal repercussions as long as you don’t admit to law enforcement that you bought cannabis, you must say that it was gifted. 

As long as you stay within the legal loophole of Initiative 71’s cannabis gifting law, the gifting process is safe and widely accepted by the DC community and the DC government in 2023.

Final Thoughts

Gifting in DC is currently the dominant recreational market, even though it’s technically not legal. Initiative 71 allows DC residents to gift up to one ounce of cannabis, as long as no goods or money was exchanged. So when you buy from a gifting store in DC you are technically not buying any cannabis but instead buying an item such as a sticker or digital art print, and then you receive the marijuana as a gift.

This process is to stay complaint with I71 law, which allows the gifting stores to stay in business and provide you with some of the best weed you’ll find in DC, hands down. I encourage you to check out the gifting market and support the local gifting DC community, because they truly have been bringing some amazing cannabis products into the DC space that we would otherwise never see, such as Doja Paks and Cookies.