District of Columbia Cannabis License Guidelines

D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration

Licensing and Enforcement Criteria

The Alcoholic Beverage & Cannabis Control (ABC) Board is an independent body that meets weekly to adjudicate, administer and enforce alcohol and medical cannabis laws. Board members are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the DC Council for a four (4) year term. There may be as many as seven members on the Board, with three members constituting a quorum.

The ABC Board is responsible for:

  • Approving all applications for new alcohol and medical cannabis licenses, renewals, transfers of ownership or location, substantial changes, suspensions, revocations, the safekeeping of licenses, and voluntary settlement agreements.
  • Enforcing alcohol and medical cannabis laws. 
  • Issuing new alcohol and medical cannabis regulations and policies.
  • Referring violations of the law to the Office of the Attorney General and other legal authorities for investigation and prosecution.
  • Overseeing ABCA.

Medical cannabis facility license fees shall be paid annually. The fee for the first year shall be paid within 60 calendar days of Board approval but prior to license issuance. The renewal fee shall be paid on or before the anniversary date of issuance of the license.

It establishes in § 1305, that there shall be two types of manufacturers license based on whether the business uses hazardous or flammable materials as part of an extraction process.

It is established, in Chapter 51, that medical cannabis business licenses shall be issued for 3-year periods.

A medical cannabis business, except for a courier license, shall not locate within three hundred feet (300 ft.) of a preschool, primary or secondary school, or recreation center unless the main entrance to the preschool, primary or secondary school, or recreation center, or the nearest property line of the school or recreation center, is actually on or occupies ground zoned commercial or industrial according to the official atlases of the Zoning Commission of the District of Columbia.

Applications for a new cultivation center, manufacturer, internet retailer, retailer, or courier license shall only be accepted by the Board during an open application period as specified by the Board by publishing a Notice in the D.C. Register. The period selected by the Board shall not be extended.

D.C. Cannabis Law & Compliance

Several laws and ordinances regulate the District of Columbia’s 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:


Can a business bring in an individual for the sole purpose of meeting the requirements for a cannabis license or to meet social equity requirements?

Straw ownership for the purposes of meeting the ownership requirements of social equity applicants and medical cannabis certified business enterprises is prohibited for both District residents and out-of-state residents.

A person or business who is found to have willfully asserted straw ownership shall have the person’s or business’s license or registration revoked and be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $30,000.

If the ABC denies a license request for a retailer or internet retailer license can a business appeal the decision?

Within 15 days of receipt of the ABC Board’s written denial decision, the applicant may submit, in writing, an appeal to the ABC Board to reconsider the denial decision. With the written appeal, the applicant may include any relevant documentation or evidence that contests findings of fact or conclusions of law in the ABC Board’s written denial decision.

What is the medical cannabis administration fund?

A special fund administered by ABCA in accordance with subsection (c) of § 7–1671.08A.

All funds received from medical cannabis licensing, permitting, and registration fees shall be deposited into the Fund.

Money deposited in the Fund shall be used by ABCA for the purpose of administering the medical cannabis program.

Does the ABC have scheduled meetings to discuss the ever-evolving cannabis industry?

Agendas for Roll Call Hearings and ABC Board Meetings are published online in advance of each scheduled meeting. Agendas are subject to change at any time prior to each meeting date.

For a list of upcoming meetings please look HERE

Virtual meetings remain open to the general public and can be live-streamed. Virtual meeting rooms open approximately 30-minutes prior to the stated start time.

D.C. Cannabis License Types


Retailers (formerly known as dispensaries) 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.

A retailer may possess medical cannabis and medical cannabis products for the purpose of dispensing to a qualifying patient or caregiver, and may manufacture, possess, distribute, purchase, and use paraphernalia.

An internet retailer shall not have a physical location that is open to the public and shall be permitted to dispense and distribute medical cannabis, medical cannabis products, and paraphernalia through delivery to any qualifying patient or the qualifying patient’s caregiver in the District of Columbia in accordance with this act and rules issued pursuant to section 14; provided, that the holder of an internet retailer license shall not be permitted to offer curbside pickup at its ABC Board-approved location.

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.

A cultivation center may cultivate and possess medical cannabis for the purpose of distribution to a manufacturer, retailer, or internet retailer, and may manufacture, possess, purchase, and use medical cannabis products and paraphernalia.


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 rulemaking.


Manufacturers process, package and label medical cannabis products for sale and distribution to licensed retailers and internet retailers in DC for resale to eligible patients and caregivers.

A manufacturer may possess medical cannabis for the purposes of manufacturing medical cannabis products and distribution to a retailer or internet retailer, and may manufacture, possess, purchase, and use paraphernalia.

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