District of Columbia Cannabis License Guidelines

D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration

Licensing and Enforcement Criteria

The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) has assumed regulatory authority for the District’s medical cannabis program.

In November 2014, District voters approved the Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Initiative (commonly known as Initiative 71). The law became effective on February 26, 2015.

As a result, it is legal for a person who is at least 21 years old to:

  • Possess two ounces or less of marijuana;
  • Transfer one ounce or less of marijuana to another person who is at least 21 years old, so long as there is no payment made or any other type of exchange of goods or services;
  • Cultivate within their residence up to six marijuana plants, no more than three of which are mature;
  • Possess marijuana-related drug paraphernalia – such as bongs, cigarette rolling papers, and cigar wrappers – that is associated with one ounce or less of marijuana; or
  • Use marijuana on private property.

A person can still be arrested for:

  • Selling any amount of marijuana to another person;
  • Possessing more than two ounces of marijuana;
  • Operating a vehicle or boat under the influence of marijuana; or
  • Smoking, eating, or drinking marijuana – or holding or carrying a lighted roll of paper or other lighted smoking equipment filled with marijuana – in any public space, such as:
  • On any street, sidewalk, alley, park, or parking area;
  • In a vehicle on any street, alley, park, or parking area; or
  • Any place to which the public is invited.

Marijuana possession by persons under 21 years of age is not allowed.

D.C.’s Initiative 71 Legalizes Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use

Initiative 71 does not legalize marijuana sales

D.C. Cannabis Law & Compliance

Several laws and ordinances regulate the District of Columbia’s commercial cannabis industry, as well as the many different steps in the supply chain. These laws range over dispositions for cultivators, manufacturers, distributors and retail dispensaries. The most recent news can be found on these websites:

FAQs

What is Initiative 71?

Initiative 71 is a voter initiative, passed by a majority of the District of Columbia voters in November 2014, which makes lawful certain activities involving marijuana.

What types of marijuana-related activities are permitted and which are prohibited?

Permitted: Under D.C. law as amended by Initiative 71, effective February 26, 2015, there is no criminal penalty for a person in the District who is 21 years of age or older to:

  • Possess or transport marijuana weighing less than two ounces;
  • Transfer up to one ounce of marijuana to another person who is at least 21 years of age and without receiving payment of any sort;
  • Use marijuana in one’s principal residence or in a private residence (put another way, a person cannot “smoke a joint” on a street corner in the District, but a person 21 or older may do so in his or her principal residence); or
  • Grow, harvest or process, inside a house, building or rental unit that is that person’s principal residence, no more than six cannabis plants, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants, and possess within that house, building or apartment the marijuana produced by such plants.

Not permitted: The below activities remain illegal after Initiative 71 takes effect:

  • Possession, sale, transfer, or transport of more than two ounces of marijuana;
  • Possession of any amount of marijuana by a person under 21 years of age;
  • Selling any amount of marijuana or giving any amount of marijuana to a person in exchange for money, goods, or services;
  • Smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana in a public space or any of the following places: A) A street, alley, park, sidewalk, or parking area; B) A vehicle in or upon any street, alley, park, or parking area; or C) Any place to which the public is invited; and
  • Operating or being in physical control of a vehicle (e.g., a car, truck, motorcycle, or bicycle) or watercraft (e.g., a boat) while intoxicated, under the influence of, or impaired by, alcohol or marijuana or any other prohibited drugs.

Is a private citizen permitted to give marijuana to another person?

Initiative 71 allows a person who is at least 21 years of age to transfer up to one ounce of marijuana to another person who is at least 21 – so long as no payment of any kind is made. It is illegal to transfer more than one ounce of marijuana or to sell any amount of marijuana.

If I live in public housing that is funded with federal dollars, can I smoke marijuana in my apartment?

Use of marijuana in federally funded public housing remains illegal. You should check with the building rules as to whether you might jeopardize your housing by violating federal rules through the use of marijuana. The safer course is not to do so.

Can my employer subject me to drug tests or otherwise subject me to potential employment consequences for my use of marijuana?

Yes. Just because possession by adults 21 years or older and use in certain circumstances has been legalized, that does not change the rights of employers in the District to drug-test employees and establish rules for employees regarding marijuana use.

D.C. Cannabis License Types

Medical cannabis in the District, legalized by the passage of the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Amendment Act of 2010, allows DC residents, including minors, to be prescribed, purchase, possess, and use cannabis to treat a diagnosed qualifying medical condition or related side effect.

Medical Cannabis – Patient

DC residents, including minors, may legally be recommended, purchase, possess, and use, medical cannabis to treat a diagnosed qualified medical condition or related side effect. Non-resident patients may purchase medical cannabis from DC dispensaries if their jurisdiction has been extended reciprocity.

Medical cannabis patients, including non-residents extended reciprocity, may purchase up to eight (8) ounces of cannabis within a rolling 30-day period and possess up to two (2) ounces at any time. Allowed formats include flowers, concentrates, edibles, transdermal products, seeds, and seedlings.

To Apply or Renew

DC residents must submit a complete Medical Cannabis Patient Application (adult or minor version). Applications may be submitted online (recommended), by mail, or in-person every Thursday through April 28, 2022 between 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

To start your online application, select the healthcare practitioner who referred you to the Medical Cannabis Program.

Medical Cannabis - Caregiver

A caregiver is a person designated by a qualifying medical cannabis patient as the person authorized to possess, obtain from a dispensary, dispense, and assist in the administration of medical cannabis.

To qualify, an individual must be:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • Registered as the qualifying patient’s caregiver
  • Serve only one (1) qualifying patient at a time

Individuals who administer medical cannabis at a dispensary or cultivation center are not eligible.

To Apply or Renew

Individuals must submit a Medical Cannabis Caregiver Application with all required documentation and payment. Applications may be uploaded to Dropbox or mailed. Currently, an online application is not available for this application type.
A criminal background check is required.

Valid Period and Fees

Caregiver cards are valid for one (1) year from date of issuance. An annual fee applies.

Patients and Caregivers

Type Standard Fee Reduced Fee* Valid Period Application Period
New Registration $100 $25 One (1) year from date of issuance. Ongoing basis
Renewal Registration $100 $25 One (1) year from date of issuance. Ongoing basis
Replacement Card $90 $20 One (1) year from date of issuance. Ongoing basis

Dispensary

Dispensaries centers may dispense medical cannabis to qualified patients in any form deemed safe which allows patients to eat, inhale, or otherwise use medical cannabis for medical purposes. Medical cannabis shall be subject to testing for quality assurance and safety purposes. 

Dispensaries may not be:

  • Located within 300 feet of a preschool, primary or secondary school or recreation center
  • Co-located with any other type of business
  • Located in a residential district

Applicants must meet general qualification requirements including good character, being at least 21 years of age and cannot have been convicted of a felony for a crime of violence, gun offense, tax evasion, fraud, or credit card fraud within the three (3) years preceding the date the application is filed with the Board.

Licensed physicians that make patient recommendations are not eligible.

A dispensary owner may only register for one (1) dispensary.

Cultivation Center

Cultivation Centers are centers that are licensed to cultivate cannabis in the District. Their primary role will be the cultivation of cannabis products. These centers are allowed to package and process the cannabis plant and prepare it for sale.

Cultivation Centers may not be:

  • Located within 300 feet of a preschool, primary or secondary school or recreation center
  • Co-located with any other type of business
  • Located in a residential district
  • Located within a Retail Priority Area

Applicants must meet general qualification requirements including good character, being at least 21 years of age and cannot have been convicted of a felony for a crime of violence, gun offense, tax evasion, fraud, or credit card fraud within the three (3) years preceding the date the application is filed with the Board.

Licensed physicians that make patient recommendations are not eligible.

A cultivation center owner may register for more than one (1) cultivation center.

Transport

A cultivation center shall obtain from the Department a transport permit to transport within the District of Columbia medical marijuana to registered dispensaries. An original transport permit shall be required for each vehicle being designated by the cultivation center or its contracted agent to be authorized to deliver medical marijuana to registered dispensaries.

The Transport Permit Application is for registering the cultivation center vehicles which will be transporting medical marijuana to dispensaries, NOT the drivers of the vehicle. Drivers must be registered as employees.

If a cultivation center chooses to contract with a delivery service, the delivery service must register as a contracted agent and the drivers for the delivery service must register as employees.

Medical Cannabis Testing Laboratory

Testing Laboratories are independent, registered facilities approved by ABRA that are licensed to test harvested medical cannabis samples and provide cultivation centers with the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) in the testing material, whether the tested material is organic or non-organic; the presence and concentration of fertilizers and other nutrients; and any other information that ABRA may require through rule-making.

Testing Laboratories will develop educational materials about potential harmful drug interactions that could occur from using medical cannabis concurrently with other medical treatments and the importance of informing health care providers and pharmacists of the use of medical cannabis to help avoid harmful drug interactions.

Testing Laboratories may not be:

  • Located within 300 feet of a preschool, primary or secondary school or recreation center
  • Co-located with any other type of business
  • Located in a residential district

Applicants must meet general qualification requirements including good character, being at least 21 years of age and cannot have been convicted of a felony for a crime of violence, gun offense, tax evasion, fraud, or credit card fraud within the 3 years preceding the date the application is filed with the Board.

Licensed physicians that make patient recommendations are not eligible.

A testing laboratory owner may only register for one (1) testing laboratory.

Medical Cannabis Program Applications and Permits

Below is a link to the medical cannabis program applications for medical cannabis patients, healthcare practitioners, facilities, or certification providers. If you have questions, contact an ABRA medical cannabis licensing specialist at (202) 442-4423.

Click for a list of Applications and Permits

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