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Washington, D.C. successfully passed medical marijuana legislation in 2010, and decriminalized marijuana 2015. The city’s approach to cannabis is unique in many respects. While the medical cannabis industry runs normally, the recreational industry operates in a legal grey area.
In Washington, D.C., people over the age of 21 may cultivate and possess marijuana, but they may not sell or purchase cannabis products. As a result, an informal grey market developed in the city. Some vendors “give away” cannabis as a gift, accompanied by the purchase of a small souvenir. Dispensary owners will need to acquaint themselves well with the complex environment of the city’s municipal cannabis law.
Yes. Washington, D.C. requires dispensary and cultivation center owners to apply for a permit. The city has traditionally licensed only a small number of applicants, and keeps its medical marijuana footprint small compared to other metropolitan areas.
The District of Columbia’s Health Regulation and Licensing Administration is responsible for managing cannabis licenses in Washington, D.C.
Washington D.C. is not accepting new applications as of 2019, and has reached its current legal limit of 5 dispensaries operating in the district. The city’s mayor can increase this number only if demand begins to outstrip supply. Cannabis entrepreneurs will have to acquire one of the city’s existing license holders.
Dispensary owners must submit to background checks and not have felony convictions. They must document full plans for operating a cannabis business in the dispensary application and submit during one of the city’s open enrollment periods.
Cannabis dispensary and cultivation center applicants in Washington, D.C. must pay an $8000 application fee. The city refunds the fee to unsuccessful applicants, minus a “processing fee” of an unspecified amount.
Yes. Washington, D.C. cannabis dispensaries must pay a $16,000 renewal fee every year. The city’s cultivation centers must pay a smaller $11,000 fee.
Washington, D.C. only offers a single type of cannabis retail license to dispensaries. Cultivation licenses are separate and do not allow their holders to sell cannabis products to patients.
Washington, D.C. does not specify when it will grant cannabis retail licenses and has not announced any plans to begin a new open application period.
Current dispensary owners should have an advantage when applying for new locations if Washington, D.C. opens up a new application period. However, every dispensary is strictly limited to serving one geographical area, so it is possible that the mayor decides not to favor existing dispensary owners.
No dispensary may operate within 300 feet of a school or recreation center in Washington, D.C. Cultivation centers may not be located in Retail Priority Areas, and the city may demand that cannabis industry establishments relocate at the mayor’s discretion.
No. Washington, D.C. state law does not require cannabis event organizers to take special action or apply for permits. Cannabis advocates regularly hold events in support of recreational cannabis legislation.
No. Cannabis event organizers and exhibitors do not need to apply for any event-specific licensing from the city government.
Any dispensary or cultivation center owner can host a cannabis-themed event in accordance with District of Columbia laws.
Washington, D.C. cannabis dispensaries must generate and send complete reports of their sales, inventory, and logistics information to the Health Regulation and Licensing Administration. Owners must ensure that seed-to-sale reporting information is available to authorities at all times. Appointing a compliance officer is highly recommended.
City-wide law requires dispensaries and cultivation centers to implement a security plan to prevent the diversion of medical cannabis to the black market but does not require facility owners to use particular equipment. The law does stipulate that marijuana must be stored in a locked room only accessible by authorized persons, however.
Yes. There is nothing in Washington, D.C.’s marijuana law to prevent dispensaries from packaging and labeling cannabis inside the store.
No. Washington, D.C. dispensaries can only sell cannabis products and cannabis-related products to qualifying patients who are registered customers of that particular dispensary.
There is nothing in Washington, D.C.’s medical marijuana laws that prevents dispensary owners from applying for a cultivation license. So long as the license holder obeys all local laws, there should be no problem vertically integrating a cannabis business in the city.
Probably. Although medical cannabis must be accounted for using a certified seed-to-sale tracking system, the city’s decriminalization laws mean that any individual who legally possesses cannabis can give a small amount away. It is not clear, from a legal standpoint, whether this applies to dispensary employees or not.
Dispensaries in Washington, D.C. can set their own hours, as long as they report their hours to authorities.
Municipal law does not restrict cannabis dispensary displays or advertising. Most dispensaries adhere to federal advertising laws concerning prescription drugs in order to stay on the safe side.
Minors may register as medical marijuana patients and appoint a caregiver to obtain cannabis products on their behalf. Minor patients cannot administer their own medicine, however. Municipal marijuana decriminalization laws only apply to individuals aged 21 and over.
Seed-to-sale reporting covers every aspect of the logistics chain, from plant cultivation to processing, distribution, and sale. Dispensaries must track every plant using batch numbers, and assign those numbers to their customers’ patient IDs.