New Law Allows DC’s Cannabis ‘Gifting’ Retailers to Obtain Medical Cannabis Licenses

A new law that took effect March 22 will allow cannabis “gifting” retailers in Washington, D.C., to obtain medical cannabis licenses, eliminating a legal gray area that has allowed unlicensed dispensaries to gift cannabis with the purchase of unrelated merchandise, such as a T-shirt, for example.

More than 100 retailers currently gift cannabis to customers with the purchase other items, according to a WTOP News report.

The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2021 eliminates the cap on the number of medical cannabis dispensaries in the district, allowing the unlicensed shops to apply for licenses.

The law also creates new license types for cannabis retailers, WTOP reported, including an internet retailer license, a courier license for deliveries, and a “safe-use facility endorsement” that paves the way for cannabis tasting events, cooking classes and sales in private outdoor spaces.

Retailers must apply for a license within 90 days of the law’s March 22 effective date, according to WTOP, and social equity applications will receive licensing priority. The law sets aside half the licenses for applicants who were previously incarcerated for a drug-related offense or those with a relative who was incarcerated for such an offense. Applicants who have lived in a designated “disproportionately impacted area” for at least 10 years and those who have qualified for a housing voucher also qualify as social equity applicants, WTOP reported.

The law also permanently codifies a temporary, emergency measure that allows all adults 21 and older to self-certify as medical cannabis patients.

RELATED: DC Launches Adult-Use Cannabis Sales Without Launching Adult-Use Cannabis Sales

The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2021 also changes the name of the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), which oversees D.C.’s medical cannabis industry, to the 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,” the administration’s director, Fred Moosally, said, according to WTOP.

D.C. voters approved a measure in the November 2014 election that allows residents to possess, consume, home cultivate and gift cannabis, but legislation introduced in 2015 by Maryland U.S. Rep. Any Harris stripped the district’s power to regulate a commercial adult-use cannabis industry. Commonly called the Harris Rider, the provision has since blocked the district’s ability to tax and regulate adult-use sales.

This led to the rise in gifting operations, but a poll released last year indicated that the majority of D.C. voters support the district’s adult-use cannabis legalization measure and its current implementation, including cannabis gifting.

Under the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2021, civil enforcement of new medical cannabis licenses will not start for 315 days, WTOP reported.

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