Washington DC Opens Licensing Window for Unlicensed Cannabis Operators

Washington D.C. regulators have kicked off the third licensing round for the District’s medical cannabis program expansions; the licensing round aims to address the issue of unlicensed operators, including those that operate on the “weed-gifting” business model.

Full story after the jump.

In a much-anticipated development, the third licensing round for D.C.’s expanded medical cannabis program officially kicked off last week, as highlighted by reporter LJ Dawson for The Outlaw Report. The Alcohol Beverage and Cannabis Board reported receiving a total of 20 applications for retail licenses and one application for an internet retailer license on the very first day of the application period.

This licensing round aims to address the longstanding issue of unlicensed operators, including the various “weed-gifting” shops that have operated throughout the city. These shops have ranged from legitimate retail stores that gifted cannabis products after the purchase of other items to out-of-state operators setting up temporary shops to distribute illicit market products without adhering to any gifting protocol.

Key points applicants need to know:

  1. Location: Applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, but shops cannot be within 400 feet of an existing retailer, which could be a deciding factor in obtaining a license.
  2. Social equity: The application process includes both social equity and standard licenses. Unregulated shops can still apply for an equity retail license during this period if they were operating in 2022 and can provide evidence. New retailer social equity applications will open in March.
  3. Timeline: The application period is open until 4 P.M. on January 29, 2023. The applications will be approved on a rolling basis, and there are four remaining board meetings where licenses could be approved.

Over the years, these shops proliferated across the city resulting in a quasi-legal unregulated local cannabis market. The government never intended for Initiative 71 (I-71), which initially legalized recreational cannabis in D.C., to create such an unregulated landscape.

To combat this issue and the ongoing federal prohibition on cannabis, the Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill was passed as a creative solution. This bill allows these shops to transition into the legal market by applying for licenses.

Notably, there was no chaotic scene or long lines at the Alcohol Beverage and Cannabis Administration office on the opening day of applications. Most applications were submitted online, although a few individuals opted to submit their applications in person.

For many, this moment marks a significant step towards the righting of past injustices, especially for those who grew up in D.C. and witnessed the negative impacts of the war on drugs and gentrification in their communities.

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