District of Columbia
District of Columbia Cannabis Business Licenses
WHAT IS WASHINGTON D.C.'S CURRENT CANNABIS MARKET STATUS?
Content Below Last Updated by Point7 04/12/2022
Washington D.C. still remains as an untaxed, unregulated market. Due to the fact that D.C. can not control their own budget, Congress has been able to block D.C. from taxing and regulating cannabis sales via the “Harris rider”, which is an arm of the federal funding legislation. When Republicans held the House of Representatives and created the 'gray market’ for cannabis in the district, Maryland’s rep. Andy Harris (R ) implemented a rider, essentially preventing government programs from being funded by the bill. Each year, a rider is included onto every cannabis bill that is introduced. This is Harris’s way of blocking the implementation of the city's decriminalization law because he feels that it is a “plain bad policy.” Unfortunately, the rider was once again included in the 2022 federal budget. Regardless, the D.C. Council signified that they are preparing to establish a regulated adult-use cannabis market once Congress allows it. On November 19, 2021, a public hearing was held on D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson’s “The Comprehensive Legislation and Regulation act of 2021,” which would regulate and tax the sales of cannabis in the district.
On February 11, 2o22 Mayor Muriel Bowser signed into law the Medical Marijuana Patient Access Extension Emergency Amendment Act of 2022. This emergency legislation increases access to D.C.’s medical cannabis program by essentially allowing senior citizens to have access to medical cannabis without a referral, allowing patients whose registrations expired on March 2020 to purchase medical cannabis until September 30, 2022, and creates a 4/20 Medical Cannabis Sales Tax Holiday Week from April 15-24, 2022, where patients will not have to pay the six percent sales tax on the medical cannabis.
WHAT ARE WASHINGTON D.C.’S CURRENT CANNABIS LAWS?
D.C. has legalized cannabis for both medical and recreational sales; however, implementing a recreational market has remained unsuccessful due to Congress’s opposing efforts. Maryland Representative Andy Harris has continued to propose a rider to an appropriations bill, which prevents D.C. from using locally raised funds to develop regulations and create a tax structure for cannabis.
Under Initiative 71, residents of Washington D.C. may possess up to two ounces of cannabis, cultivate up to six plants (three of which may be mature), transfer up to one ounce of cannabis to another individual, and use cannabis on private property. However, Initiative 71 does not allow for the purchase of recreational cannabis. To obtain cannabis, residents are allowed to ‘gift' cannabis to adults age 21 and up.
WHAT IS WASHINGTON D.C.'S CANNABIS LICENSING TIMELINE & CANNABIS APPLICATION PROCESS?
Although applications for new D.C. medical marijuana licenses are not available at this time, it is never too early to begin the developing stages of your cannabis business. Point7 has the experience and knowledge to guide you through the entire journey to a cannabis business from starting with the pre application efforts through the post-licensure operations.
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF CANNABIS IN WASHINGTON D.C.?
Medical cannabis was legalized during the 20th century when Initiative 59, otherwise known as Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998, was approved by Washington D.C. voters. Unfortunately, Congressman Bob Barr - who wanted complete federal prohibition on medical cannabis - successfully blocked the initiative 59 implementation with the addition of the “Barr Amendment” to the 1999 Omnibus Spending bill. Lawsuits and additional amendments added by Barr blocked future attempts of legalization until 2009 when the United States Senate and House of Representatives voted to remove the ban prohibiting initiatives supporting medical cannabis.
On March 4, 2014 the Council of D.C. passed the decriminalization of possession of cannabis. Decriminalization was followed by recreational legalization in November 2014 when Initiative 71 was approved by voters.
Cannabis is legal for both medical and recreational use in D.C. but currently only has a limited market serving medical patients. Because of D.C’s unique structure, prohibiting it from having control over the budget, Congress has been able to prevent the District from regulating and taxing recreational cannabis. As of January 24, 2020 the program has 6,217 registered patients who are able to shop in a Washington DC dispensary for their cannabis needs.
The uncommon restrictions on D.C’s budget control have created what is known today as a “weed gift economy”. Since under initiative 71, up to one ounce of cannabis can be gifted to another adults but not sold, retailers have begun to sell relatively low-value products such as t-shirts and stickers at prices like $50 that then come with a “free gift” of cannabis valued at $50 despite regulations and taxation not being developed yet. These cannabis products are not taxed by the district, and in addition are not regulated or tested. Most of the cannabis products sold in the “weed gift economy” are products that failed regulatory testing in other states and shipped illegally through the mail.
DOES WASHINGTON D.C. HAVE A HEMP PROGRAM?
To this date there has been no industrial hemp legislation introduced in Washington D.C.
ARE YOU PREPARING FOR THE WASHINGTON D.C. CANNABIS MARKET?
Despite ongoing roadblocks presented by members of Congress, D.C. has legalized cannabis for recreational use and with that brings a future opportunity of owning and operating a cannabis business in the Country's capital. There are many steps to prepare for the application process and Point7 has developed products and service packages to make any application and post licensure operation seamless and compliant. Contact Point7 to discover how we can begin your cannabis business journey.