DC-based ‘gifting’ dispensaries will be able to get medical cannabis licenses

The legal purgatory that many D.C.-based marijuana “gifting” dispensaries live in will likely end thanks to a new law that took effect last week.

The legal purgatory that many D.C.-based marijuana “gifting” dispensaries live in will likely end thanks to a new law that took effect last week.

The aim is to make it easier to get medical cannabis from a legal business that sells regulated products.



Currently, well over 100 dispensaries will sell a sticker or T-shirt for $100 and then “gift” the customer an amount of cannabis that’s equivalent in value. It was a legal gray area, but now many of those companies are going to be able to get medical marijuana dispensary licenses.

The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2021 went into effect on March 22. It eliminates caps on the number of medical dispensaries, allowing many of the “gifting” brick-and-mortar and delivery services to apply for medical marijuana licenses.

It also expands the types of licenses that retailers could apply for, including internet retailer and a courier license of deliveries of marijuana as well as “safe-use facility endorsement” to allow tasting events, cannabis-based cooking classes and summer garden events that allow sales in private outdoor spaces.

Retailers have 90 days from the effective date to submit an application for a license.

The new law will also focus on “social equity applications.” At least 50% of licensees must fall under a social equity applicant, meaning they could have been previously incarcerated, related to someone incarcerated on drug offenses, have lived in “disproportionately impacted area” for at least 10 years or qualified for a housing voucher, among other factors.

Civil enforcement of the new licensing won’t begin for 315 days.

Another major portion of the bill permanently allows for D.C. residents to self-certify that they are a patient in need of medicinal marijuana rather than needing a health care providers prescription. Applications are available online.

A temporary and emergency measure for self-certification was passed last year and the number of registered patients grew from 14,000 in July to nearly 25,000 in October.

The bill also changes the name of the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration to include the medical cannabis program. It will now be named Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration (ABCA).

“The Act’s creation of additional business opportunities will also serve to benefit patients in wards or neighborhoods currently without a medical cannabis retailer by providing more convenient locations in the District where they can obtain medical cannabis and medical cannabis products,” said the administration’s director Fred Moosally in a statement.

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