Washington, DC Medical Cannabis Expansion and New Licensing Opportunities

By David M. Ullian

Jun 28, 2023

In our nation’s capital—Washington, District of Columbia (DC)—a new law that overhauls DC’s existing medical cannabis program, significantly expands access for registered patients, and creates a variety of new business opportunities for operators is now in effect. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022 (the “Act”) on January 30, 2023, and following the completion of the statutory Congressional review period, the Act became effective on March 22, 2023.

This article provides a high-level overview of some of the Act’s key provisions and new business opportunities.

Key Provisions of the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022

The Act makes a variety of impactful changes to the existing medical cannabis program in DC, including the following key provisions:

  • Updates the names of the regulatory authorities to the “Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration (ABCA)” and the “Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis (ABC) Board”

  • Allows qualifying patients ages 21 and older to self-certify as part of the registration process;

  • Eliminates medical cannabis facility caps

  • Creates new medical cannabis business license types, as well as operational endorsements for Retailers

  • Promotes social equity in the medical cannabis market, including by reserving at least 50% of all new licenses for social equity applicants and reducing license fees for social equity applicants

  • Introduces an annual medical cannabis sales tax holiday in April

  • Establishes a pathway for unlicensed operators to obtain a medical cannabis business license

  • Authorizes increased civil enforcement authority and penalties for unlicensed cannabis businesses and commercial property owners that allow unlicensed operations to occur on their premises

Washington, DC Medical Cannabis License Types and Retailer Endorsements

Under the Act, six separate medical cannabis license types are now available, which include:

  • Cultivation Center

  • Manufacturer

  • Retailer

  • Internet Retailer

  • Courier

  • Testing Laboratory

Licensed Retailers (and only licensed Retailers) are also eligible to apply for endorsements that permit the licensee to engage in additional operations, including:

  • Delivery – authorizes the delivery of medical cannabis products and paraphernalia to eligible patients at residential and commercial building addresses located in DC

  • Educational Tasting – authorizes the offering of cooking and how-to classes and demonstrations, and tastings for educational purposes

  • Safe-Use Treatment Facility – authorizes the on-premises consumption of medical cannabis products purchased on-site at the Retailer within designated areas

  • Summer Garden – authorizes the sale, service, and on-premises consumption of medical cannabis products within a private outdoor space

Open Periods for Medical Cannabis License Applications

The ABCA only accepts applications for medical cannabis business licenses during open application periods. Although some types of applicants can apply for certain license types now, more open application periods will commence later this year and next year, including the following:

  • All operators currently licensed by the ABCA are eligible to apply for Cultivation Center, Manufacturer, and Retailer licenses from May 1, 2023 to May 1, 2024

  • Non-Social Equity Applicants are eligible to apply for Courier, Cultivation Center, and Manufacturer licenses from August 29, 2023 to October 30, 2023

  • Unlicensed Operators are eligible to apply for Cultivation Center, Retailer, and Internet Retailer licenses from November 1, 2023 to January 29, 2024

In light of the major statutory changes and upcoming open application periods discussed above, interested parties seeking to take advantage of these new cannabis business licensing opportunities in Washington, DC, should start preparing now.

If you have any questions or would like to schedule a call to discuss the new medical cannabis law and licensing opportunities in Washington, DC, please contact David M. Ullian or Meg Nash, or call 617-934-2121.

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