D.C I-71 gifting shops face enforcement, 76 unlicensed shops applied for medical licenses


UPDATE: List of license applicants published Feb. 12, 2024. 

The deadline for unlicensed weed gifting shops to apply for medical cannabis licenses closed at the end of January, ending the D.C. government’s attempt to fold unregulated shops into the legal medical cannabis market. 

Despite the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration’s efforts to make the application accessible and provide support to applicants, 76 total shops applied out of at least a few hundred in the city. Though D.C. council members acknowledged just three dozen gifting shops in the past, the numbers are likely far higher. 

Over the last eight years, 1-71 shops popped up on almost every other block on busy thoroughfares, sometimes next to each other or directly across. They were notoriously hard to keep track of because they either did not pay taxes or if they did, identified as retail establishments. 

As of Feb. 8, 26 unlicensed retailers have been placarded to become legal medical dispensaries, 12 social equity applicants and 14 standard applicants. The earliest they could open would be late April.

ABCA denied three applications so far due to failure to meet zoning or unlicensed operator requirements. The third denial was due to another operator applying within 400 feet before the denied shop submitted their application. 

All unlicensed dispensaries who operate in the gray market under I-71, will no longer be exempt from enforcement unless they are one of the 76 applicants who applied for a medical license. Enforcement against unlicensed operators will begin after the agency publishes a list of all 76 applicants on the ABCA website, according to Fred Moosally, the Director of ABCA during February’s license info session. The list is set to be published next week. 

Enforcement will begin with a written warning from ABCA then escalate to fines then cease and desist orders and then referral to other law enforcement agencies. The remaining 47 applicants must still be processed by ABCA. Those businesses will not be at risk of enforcement unless they are denied a license after which they must cease operation. 

All unlicensed operators who move into the legal market will be forced to buy their product from D.C.  licensed manufacturers and cultivators and only sell to self-certified medical patients over 21-years-old. The next licensing period opens Mar 1, 2024 for social equity retail and online retail applicants. 


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