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How to Open a Dispensary in Washington DC 2024?

Cannabis Dispensary

How to Open a Dispensary in Washington DC 2024?

Cannabis Dispensary in DCCannabis is quickly being legalized on a state-by-state basis in the US. As of April 2024, 24 states have legalized recreational use of marijuana. Washington DC is one of the jurisdictions where medical cannabis is legal. The process took effect in February 2015 with Initiative 71, a voter-approved ballot measure that legalized the recreational use of cannabis in the district.

Under the legalization measure, individuals over the age of 21 in D.C. are allowed to possess up to two ounces (57 g) of marijuana, grow up to six plants (three mature and three immature) in their homes, and gift up to one ounce (28 g) of marijuana to another person. Possess marijuana-related drug paraphernalia, such as bongs, cigarette rolling papers, and cigar wrappers were also legalized. While the measure allows for the sale of marijuana by licensed retailers, no regulatory system has been implemented due to Congressional opposition. However, the legalization of gifting up to one ounce of cannabis has led to a gifting economy, where stores in D.C. exchange cannabis as a gift with the purchase of items such as t-shirts and stickers.

Public consumption of marijuana remains illegal. On January 31, 2023, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed legislation into law that significantly expands the District’s medical cannabis program. The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022 eliminates cannabis business licensing caps, provides tax relief to operators, promotes social equity, and creates new regulated business categories such as on-site consumption facilities.

Additionally, the legislation allows D.C. residents 21 and older to self-certify as medical cannabis patients, enabling them to purchase cannabis from dispensaries without a doctor’s recommendation. There is no requirement for patients to have a listed qualifying condition—any medical use qualifies.

Medical Cannabis Program Opportunities in Washington DC

Washington DC’s Alcohol Beverage and Cannabis Administration (ABCA) is now accepting Medical Cannabis Retailer license applications. The completed applications for these licenses will be accepted from July 1, 2024, until August 29, 2024. A Retailer license permits the dispensing of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products to eligible patients and caregivers.

Application Schedule Overview

Prospective applicants should note these important dates to ensure they meet the application deadlines for Retailers.

  • July 1, 2024: Start date to receive Standard Internet Retailer and Retailer applications
  • August 29, 2024: Last date to submit Standard Internet Retailer and Retailer application

Required Fees for Washington DC Medical Cannabis Applications and Business Licenses

Application Fees:

There are 3 types of Applications, and each type requires a different fee:

  • Conditional License Application type (doesn’t require an existing business location. Allow one-year from the approval of the conditional application to submit a business lease agreement): $2000
  • Standard License Application type (must have a business lease agreement): $8000
  • Social Equity Application type (must have a business lease agreement): $2000

License Fees:

  • Standard Business Annual License Fee: $16000
  • Social Equity Applicant Annual License Fee: $4000
Cannabis Shop
Cannabis Shop in DC

Determine Whether or Not You’re Allowed to Open a Medical Cannabis Dispensary in Washington DC

In Washington DC, certain entities and individuals are not allowed to obtain a medical marijuana retailer license, including applicants who hold an interest in testing laboratory or courier license. A retailer may not be located within any Office of Planning-zoned residential district or within 300 feet of a preschool, primary or secondary school, or recreation center. A retailer cannot be in a residential district.

The following list outlines the general requirements for applicants seeking medical Internet Retailer and Retailer licenses. These do not include social equity applicant (SEA) requirements:

The applicant must demonstrate good character and suitability for licensure responsibilities.
The applicant must not have been convicted of a felony related to violence, firearms, tax evasion, fraud, or credit card fraud within the past three years.
The applicant must be 21 years of age or older.
The applicant must have paid the annual fee and be registered as either a for-profit or non-profit corporation in the District.
The applicant must not be a licensed medical practitioner authorized to make patient recommendations.
The applicant must not be a caregiver or qualifying patient whose authority has been revoked by the Board.
The applicant must have fulfilled all requirements outlined in the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1999 (Act), effective July 27, 2010, and Title 22-C of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations.
The applicant must be up-to-date on all tax filings and have a “Clean Hands” status, owing the District no more than $100.

Remaining Compliant DC Regulations

Securing a cannabis license is just the beginning. To successfully run your business, you must consistently follow the rules and regulations set by the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration (ABCA) and the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Board.

Non-compliance can result in your license being canceled or the ABCA refusing to renew it. To ensure compliance, adhere to all requirements such as record-keeping, product testing, employee training, and security measures. Promptly provide any requested documents to demonstrate your compliance.

Establish robust compliance protocols in line with the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022. Inform the ABCA of any major changes in your company and follow legal procedures for operational or managerial changes.


Obtaining a cannabis license in the District of Columbia is challenging, but with proper understanding, research, and preparation, you can successfully secure one.

The steps outlined in this guide provide a comprehensive overview of the process. Following them will ease your path to license acquisition. Additionally, consider seeking professional advice and obtaining insurance to support your efforts in building a successful cannabis business in DC.

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