District of Columbia CANNABIS LICENSES

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DC Cannabis Overview

The District of Columbia (DC) has not legalized the sale of cannabis for recreational use. As a result, the medical cannabis market is DC’s only legal market. The Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration (ABCA) oversees DC’s medical cannabis market.

The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022 (MCAA) launched DC’s medical cannabis market. The medical market now serves between 20,000 and 30,000 patients on a monthly basis.

Both DC residents and non-DC residents can apply to become medical cannabis patients, and purchase cannabis from medical retailers and internet retailers.


  • Individuals 21 years-of-age or older can self-certify their application instead of obtaining a healthcare provider’s recommendation.


  • Anyone 18 to 20 years of age are not permitted to self-certify and must include a healthcare recommendation number in their application.


  • Those who are considered minors (under 17 years-of-age) must submit an application with a  recommendation from a healthcare professional and registered caregiver.

Healthcare practitioners can recommend cannabis use to patients who are eligible, if medical cannabis is recognized as a beneficial treatment. Practitioners who can prescribe cannabis  include physicians, naturopathic physicians (ND) advanced practice registered nurses (APRN), physician assistants, and dentists. Practitioners must register with the ABCA before recommending medical cannabis to patients. 

The practitioner must be board-certified, actively licensed, and in good standing in DC. They should have a genuine patient-practitioner relationship, a comprehensive assessment of the patient’s medical history and condition within the last 90 days, and be responsible for ongoing care, not solely related to medical cannabis. Recommendations should be based on thorough medical evaluation and alternatives. Practitioners also cannot not have financial interests in dispensaries or cultivation centers.

Conditional Licenses

Applicants must apply for standard or conditional licenses. A license is determined to be conditional if the accepted application is submitted without occupancy of a compliant location. Having a conditional license does not allow the license holder to engage in any of the activities involved with the license type. For example, A Conditional license does not allow the holder to engage in activities like purchasing, possessing, cultivating, manufacturing, or selling medical cannabis or its products. It grants the holder one year from application approval date to provide the ABCA with essential documents, including a lease, security plans, certificate of occupancy, a permanent license application, any due fees, and other requested documents. The facility must be operational within one year from the date that the application was accepted. The conditional license can be canceled if the license holder cannot meet these requirements or begin operations within one year of the license issuance. Conditional licenses cannot be sold or transferred.

DC Medical Cannabis Licenses


Previously referred to as the dispensary license, the retailer license authorizes the establishment of a medical cannabis dispensary to distribute cannabis products to qualified patients and caregivers. Additionally, it enables retailers to produce, purchase, and sell paraphernalia.

Conditional Applicant Fee: $800

Conditional Approval Fee: $1,200

Standard Applicant Fee: $8,000

Annual License Fee: $16,000

Internet Retailer

The Internet Retailer license permits businesses without a physical storefront (medical cannabis dispensary) to distribute medical cannabis products to qualified patients and caregivers, utilizing online platforms and mobile apps for delivery arrangements.

Such retailers are authorized to deliver directly to patients and caregivers without needing a separate delivery endorsement, operating between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. daily. Deliveries can be conducted by either licensed third-party couriers or the internet retailer’s own staff.

Before completing a delivery, personnel must verify the recipient’s identity and age. Deliveries cannot be made outside DC or to properties owned by the DC or federal government, schools, or school premises, with an exception for individuals over 21 at higher education institutions.

Internet retailers are not allowed to offer curb-side or drive-through pickup and must avoid operating in residential zones designated by the Office of Planning or within 300 feet of preschools, primary or secondary schools, or recreation centers.

Conditional Applicant Fee: $800

Conditional Approval Fee: $1,200

Standard Applicant Fee: $8,000

Annual License Fee: $16,000


The Cultivation Center medical cannabis license allows the cultivation of mature cannabis plants to produce cannabis for sale and distribution to licensed manufacturers, retailers, and internet retailers in DC, who will then resell it to qualified patients and caregivers. There are 6 tier levels that determine the capacity, and size of the operation, along with the associated fees:


Tier 1: Canopy area between 0 sq ft and 10,000 sq ft. Annual Fee of $11,000

Tier 2: Canopy area between 10,000 sq ft and 25,000 sq ft. Annual fee of $16,000

Tier 3: Canopy area between 25,000 sq ft and 50,000 sq ft. Annual fee of $21,000

Tier 4: Canopy area between 50,000 sq ft and 75,000 sq ft. Annual fee of $26,000

Tier 5: Canopy area between 75,000 sq ft and 100,000 sq ft. Annual fee of $31,000

Tier 6: Canopy area greater than 100,000 sq ft. Annual fee of $36,000


Other Associated Fees:

Conditional Applicant Fee: $800

Conditional Approval Fee: $1,200

Standard Applicant Fee: $4,000

Annual License Fees: Listed within Tiers


The Manufacturer License permits the processing, packaging, and labelling of medical cannabis products to be sold to licensed retailers and internet retailers in DC. The licensed retailers and internet retailers are then able to sell the manufactured products to eligible patients and caregivers.

There are two (2) different manufacturer license types:

Type 1 – Manufacturing only. Annual fee of:

Type 2 – Manufacturing and extraction. Annual fee of: $8,000

Conditional Applicant Fee:

Conditional Approval Fee: $1,200

Standard Applicant Fee: $4,000

Annual License Fees: Listed within Tiers

A Type 2 Manufacturer’s license is necessary for applicants planning to produce medical cannabis products using hazardous substances, flammable liquids, compressed gases, cryogenic fluids, or equipment needing an operational permit from the DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services’ Office of the Fire Marshal. Details on when such a permit is needed are in section 107.10 of the D.C. Fire Prevention Code.

Cannabis Testing License (Testing Laboratory)

The Testing Laboratory License allows the license holder to test medical cannabis and medical cannabis products for the purpose of providing test results to licensed cultivation centers and manufacturers. A cannabis testing license allows you to open a lab as long as it is not located within any Office of Planning-zoned residential district or within 300 feet of a preschool, primary or secondary school, or recreation center.

Conditional Applicant Fee: $0

Conditional Approval Fee: $1,200

Standard Applicant Fee: $0

Annual License Fees: $7,500

Applying for a Medical Cannabis License

Applications are accepted only during designated open application periods. However, applications for Testing Laboratory Licenses, Certification Training Provider Permits, and Retailer Endorsements are accepted continuously, without restriction to specific periods. Accepted applications must be paid for within one (1) business day following acceptance.

Licenses can be applied for or renewed online. Applying online is the recommended application method. Applicants view all application documents, work on their application while being able to save their work, and return to it at a later date before the application window closes. Alternative application methods include in-person mail, by mail, and by Email.

Link to the ABCA’s Application Resources: https://abca.dc.gov/node/1657866#gsc.tab=0


Despite the uncertainty surrounding the licensing process and associated costs, there is a significant opportunity for cannabis businesses in Washington, D.C. With a population of over 700,000 people and a high demand for cannabis products, businesses that are able to successfully navigate the licensing process and establish themselves in the market could see significant financial gains.

Why Work With CannDelta?

Given the complexity of the regulatory and licensing framework for cannabis businesses in Washington, D.C., it may be beneficial to work with a cannabis consultant to help navigate the process. CannDelta’s consultants can provide guidance on the licensing process, help with application preparation, and advise on compliance and operational issues. Working with a consultant can save time and money by avoiding costly mistakes and ensuring that all regulatory requirements are met.

While the regulatory and licensing framework for cannabis businesses in Washington, D.C. is still being established, there is significant opportunity for businesses that are able to successfully navigate the process. Working with a cannabis consultant can help ensure success and avoid costly mistakes.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can usually purchase cannabis and cannabis products using either cash or debit at a DC dispensary. If you are shopping at a medical DC dispensary, keep in mind that it likely will not accept credit cards as a payment method since cannabis is still a federally illegal substance.

The DC cannabis Dispensary License is now called a Retailer License or Internet Retailer Licenses. You can get a medical Retailer/Internet Retailer License by meeting eligibility requirements and submitting a complete, high-scoring application. This will involve preparing for the next application window, researching and/or obtaining occupancy of a location, and much more. Applications can be filled out and submitted online through DC’s government website.

You will need an Internet Retailer license to open an online cannabis store. This Washington DC cannabis license (Internet Retailer) allows the licensee to sell cannabis to patients and caregivers and online through a website or through a digital app. The Internet Retailer license permits online distribution of medical cannabis products to qualified patients and caregivers in DC, with deliveries allowed between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Restrictions include verifying recipient identity, avoiding certain locations like government properties and schools, and adhering to zoning regulations.

You can open a dispensary with a Washington DC cannabis license. You will either need to be awarded a retailer or internet retailer license by submitting a license application. Unless you’re opening an online cannabis store with an Internet Retailer License, you will need to make sure you have a compliant location to open your dispensary.

Since recreational cannabis use is still illegal in DC, you cannot open a legal, licensed consumption lounge (cannabis lounge DC).

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