Final D.C. medical cannabis dispensary licenses up for grabs starting in July


In less than a month, the final medical cannabis license application period will open for non-social equity dispensaries in the District.

This will mark the end of a year of different periods for growers, manufacturers and retailers set by the Alcohol Beverage and Cannabis Administration (ABCA) after the D.C. council passed the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022. The act demands that 50% of the licenses be awarded to social equity applicants in this expansion.

There were three application periods: first for unlicensed operators, then for social equity applicants, and now for standard retail applicants.

Over 250 applicants submitted social equity applications during the last period, which ended in March. Only 33 retailers and two internet retailers were approved by the time the period closed. The other 200-plus applications are still being processed and not all could be finalized.

According to ABCA, starting in July, there will only be 33 retail licenses and two internet licenses available for non-social equity applicants. This cap will not increase, even if additional social equity licenses are approved.

Applications will be accepted on a first-come basis, whether they are for standard licenses or conditional licenses. Conditional licensees currently have a year to open their businesses while standard applicants must have everything in order to be approved.

Conditional applications allow businesses to bid for licenses and hold their spots without having locations. Conditional licenses, however, cannot be sold. There is a possibility D.C. Council may pass legislation this month to extend the conditional licenses for cultivation centers and manufacturers to two years due to the difficulty of finding appropriately zoned properties for these businesses. It is not clear if this would also cover retail licenses.

A new zoning change, which was released last month, slightly increased the number of properties available for small cultivation centers and manufactures in D.C. Previously, all manufacturers and cultivation centers, no matter their size, had to be located in industrial zones.

Over 50 retailers have been placarded from the past two license periods. Of an additional seven licensed retailers, two have operational dispensaries.

There still have been no new cultivation or manufacturers that have opened to provide product to the almost 50 new stores coming online. While there are four cultivation centers placarded, two have not moved forward in the licensing process since July 2023.

Fewer than ten dispensaries sold less than 400 pounds of cannabis in April. If just the currently placarded retail locations and the 35 licenses available in July open, the D.C. market is looking at a 1,600% expansion from a year ago.

Social equity applicants will not be allowed to apply in this period. “Given the volume of applications that applied during the most recent period, we are not taking social equity applicants during this period,” said Fred Moosally, the director of ABCA, in an info session this week. The application period will open July 1 at 9 a.m. and close on Aug. 29 at 4 p.m. ABCA’s website has more information here.


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