Metro Monopoly: Inside the District’s head shops

Media Credit: Elizabeth Lane | Hatchet Photographer

At Capitol Hemp in Adams Morgan, you can find pipes, bongs and grinders inspired by The Lord of the Rings, The Grateful Dead and Star Wars.

It’s been nearly a year since marijuana was legalized in D.C. On a muggy afternoon, I ventured through the various heady, dank-scented doorways of D.C.’s finest head shops to see what the city has to offer in the name of getting high.

For the vibe and the prices: Island Dyes at 331 H St. NE
Nearest Metro stop: Union Station

I first stopped at Island Dyes. My Uber driver gave me a questioning once-over on my way out of the car as I approached the colorful green, yellow and red building on the corner of H Street.

The air conditioning was clearly not working (or non-existent) because the air in the store felt thick with the scent of weed, but the layout was clean and inviting. After browsing the glass cases, I struck up a conversation with manager Michael Stamper, who said that sales have doubled in the 10 months since marijuana was legalized. But more importantly, he said, attitudes about marijuana have changed as well.

“People are more open about smoking weed now, and so it’s not a bad thing anymore,” he said. “A lot of people back then looked at us like, ‘Oh, we’re stoners. We’re lazy.’ But I mean, there are people who smoke weed and are amazingly productive.”

Stamper said he’s most proud of $30 glass pipes made of custom-blown German silica glass that come in a variety of colors. He demonstrated the durability of the pipes by hurling one at my (startled) feet and then picking it up, undamaged, from the floor.

He said college students, especially from nearby Gallaudet University, are his main customer base. But he said he also sees a lot of “older, government-employee types,” and one time, the rapper G-Eazy stopped in.

In the middle of our chat, owner Glen Schow walked in, shirtless and severely sunburned from his hour-long drive into the city in his convertible, which he called his “Batmobile.”

After talking to Schow on the store’s patio (where he remained shirtless), I learned that he has been selling paraphernalia since 1994 in various places around D.C., but that he only smokes weed “about once a month.”

Judging by the friendly atmosphere and the Fetty Wap blasting from the store speakers, I would concur with Schow’s assessment that they “rock the block.”

For unique pipes: Capitol Hemp at 1770 Columbia Rd. NW
Nearest Metro stop: Adams Morgan/Woodley Park

Clean and brightly lit, Capitol Hemp, which re-opened a month ago after being shut down since 2012 following a police raid, offers some unique glass products.

The manager of the store, John Brassfield, showed me one product he called the “Gandalf pipe,” which looks like a normal pipe save for a stem that stretches out long like Gandalf’s beard, although I admit my Lord of the Rings knowledge is slim. The pipe costs $30 to $55 depending on the size.

Brassfield said these pipes allow the smoke to cool off before it reaches your face so it’s not too harsh. It also prevents you from burning your eyebrows when trying to light a pipe, which seems like an important quality.

The sales associate puffing large clouds of vape smoke behind the cash register showed me the “Medtainer,” one of the store’s top-selling products. A $10.99 airtight, watertight weed container and grinder, it appears to have no medical function beyond keeping you from smoking wet pot. But Brassfield said it is “perfect for vaping on the go.”

If you are looking to splurge on your bong-related needs, you can purchase a one-of-a-kind commemorative Grateful Dead bong for a whopping $3,800. Other pricey bongs come in Willy Wonka and Darth Vader themes.

However, regular glass spoons, and more durable “inside-out spoons,” which have more of a round chamber, are reasonably priced and range from $13 to $40. The store’s glass bubblers and bongs are hand-blown by local glass blowers.

Brassfield also said that the delivery app Postmates can pick up from the store and deliver products, so I quickly made a note to myself to invest in a weed delivery app, which will surely be the next big thing.

For a great sale: Bazaar Atlas at 2405 18th St. NW
Nearest Metro stop: Adams Morgan/Woodley Park

A few blocks from Capitol Hemp is Bazaar Atlas, one of those musty shops designed to look like a market stall somewhere in East Asia. Piles of shoes, scarves, baskets and drums fill the tight space.

The store is located right above Queen’s Cafe & Hookah bar (and next door to Jumbo Slice Pizza) and hookahs line the floor and shelves. And all of the store’s drug paraphernalia is on sale for 50 percent off through next weekend, making it more affordable.

A hookah which came up above my knee cost about $289. The pipes, located in baskets in front of the cashier, were nearly double the price of pipes at my other stops and cost as much as $54 or $64. The clerk behind the counter told me that the more expensive pipes were made of reinforced glass to make them more durable.

On a rack by the pipes were packages of “disposable hookahs,” which looked like long, slim cigarettes and came in flavors like “Xtreme Peach” and “Double Dare Coffee.”

After I hopped back into an Uber, the driver, perhaps catching a whiff of the ganja smell clinging to my clothes and hair, inquired whether I was heading back in for the night or just getting started.

In this new, vape-clouded world where marijuana is legal, it feels like the night is just getting started for everyone.

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