How to Open a Dispensary in Washington DC


How to Open a Dispensary in Washington DC  

The cannabis industry has flourished in areas where it’s been legalized and undoubtedly, drawing the interest of many entrepreneurs. Despite the thriving market, keeping a tab on the regulatory framework, licensing processes, and market dynamics can be challenging and overwhelming. And Washington DC is no exception. Hence, if you’re interested in opening a law-abiding dispensary in the nation’s capital, then you’re reading the right content.   

In this post, we will discuss how to open a dispensary in Washington DC. We’ll also share the application process, license requirements, cost, and required documents to ease the journey for you.   

What Are the Different Types of Cannabis Businesses and Their Licenses in DC? 

In 2023, you can’t open a retail cannabis store in Washington DC. However, there are other cannabis-related businesses you can consider. Some of these are already allowed because they help medical dispensaries, while others might be available in the future.  


Cultivators grow and sell marijuana plants, which is allowed in Washington DC because they can sell their products to dispensaries.  


As the name reflects, retail includes the selling of marijuana and marijuana items. These businesses provide marijuana flowers, fruit, extracts, edibles, resin (hashish), and related products for people who want to use them recreationally.  


Labs play a crucial role by testing cannabis products to ensure the right quantity, quality, and dosage, and also includes adhering to safety guidelines. They support medical dispensaries and are a legal business option in Washington DC. These labs ensure that the marijuana products are safe and effective for medical use, which is important for patient’s well-being  


Manufacturing businesses extract cannabinoids to produce products like edible items and vape cartridges, or they manufacture these finished items as CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). This means you can legally produce these items to help patients with their medical needs while following the law.  


Cannabis distributors or distribution centers store marijuana and related products in a secure facility. Distributors ensure the secure movement of cannabis products between different businesses or, in some instances, directly to the doorsteps of its consumers.   

In Washington DC, you can legally use third-party courier services to deliver medical cannabis to patients. This allows for the safe and regulated transport of medical marijuana to those who need it.  

Steps to Obtain a Dispensary License – Application Process  

The application process is a simple process but requires tons of effort. Applicants and their businesses need to meet specific eligibility criteria and possess certification documents issued by the Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD).  

You can fill out and send in the application form when the licensing window is open. For confusion and additional support follow medical cannabis business license guidance.   

Pay the application fees, which are $8,000 for standard retailers and $2,000 for social equity retailers, using approved payment methods. This is a non-refundable application fee.  

Before issuing the license, the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration will run a background check to ensure you’ve no criminal record.  

What Is the Current Status of Washington D.C.’s Application Process?  

Right now, you can’t apply because the application process is not open. Starting a dispensary in Washington D.C. depends on local authorities because the state allows them to decide whether to allow or prohibit marijuana businesses.  

What Are the Requirements for Dispensary Owners? 

Starting a dispensary involves significant responsibility, and a license won’t be issued without assessing your suitability to fulfill both social and regulatory duties as a responsible citizen. Hence, dispensary owners must meet specific requirements.  

Before granting a license, the ABC Board must ensure the applicant satisfies the following conditions:  

  • Be at least 21 years old.  
  • No felony convictions within the last 10 years.  
  • Demonstrate good character and be capable of fulfilling the responsibilities of licensure.  
  • No misdemeanor convictions related to controlled substances within the past 5 years  
  • The applicant cannot have had their authority as a caregiver or qualifying patient revoked by the Board.  

Documentation Needed for License Application  

The documents you need vary depending on whether you’re a regular or S.E. applicant. You can locate all the required documents and the government offices to obtain them from in the license checklist.  

Applicants are highly advised to carefully check their applications before submitting them. Here is the list of documents needed for licensing.   

Medical Cannabis License Application  

Trade Name Registration  

Certificate of Good Standing for the Corporation  

Certified surveyor’s report or detailed Geographic Information System (GIS) map detailing the proximity of proposed location to schools or recreation centers.  

A valid zoning determination letter or valid issued Zoning Certificate as determined by the D.C. Office of Zoning.  

Clean Hands Certification for the business and all owners.  

Medical cannabis acknowledgment and attestation form  

Medical Cannabis Social Equity Declaration form  

Social Equity applicant attestation statement  

Medical Cannabis Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) declaration form  

Annual personal net income attestation form  

Certification as a Medical Cannabis CBE from the Department of Small & Local Business Development (DSLBD)  

Non-refundable application fee  

How Long It Will Take?  

Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration gives a schedule with estimated dates for the application process. After you send in your application and they get it, they take about 45 days to decide and wait for the final approval. So, it’s a good idea to get ready before the application period starts.  

How Much It Will Cost You?  

If you want to start a marijuana retail business, you’ll need to pay some fees. First, there’s a $5,000 fee to process your application, and then an annual registration fee of $10,000. If your dispensary grows its own marijuana, you’ll have to pay an extra $10,000. When it comes to staff, each director, supervisor, employee, or agent needs to pay $200 annually for registration, while regular employees pay $75 annually. If you have a supervisor/manager, their license fee is $150 annually.  

What is Washington D.C.’s Social Equity Program?  

The latest Washington D.C. Medical Cannabis Bill says that 50% of new licenses will go to social equity applicants except for Testing Laboratory licenses. This program is introduced to help the persons disproportionately harmed by cannabis criminalization. However, there is an eligibility criteria is given by the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration to take the advantages and perks of this program.   

Tips & Tricks on How to Start a Dispensary That Makes Money?  

To establish a dispensary that earns money, you should begin by making a solid and proper plan. First, make sure you understand the rules and laws related to cannabis, both at the state and federal levels. Then, find a good place to set up your shop. Obtain the licenses to operate your dispensary legally, and make sure you have worthy marijuana products to sell along with excellent service. Just remember to follow each step carefully and make your customers happy.  

  • Do complete research on whether you want to open recreational marijuana or only medical marijuana dispensary.  
  • Follow the licensing and application process   
  • Prepare a business, operational, and security plan  
  • Figure out how much it will cost to open a dispensary  
  • Secure financing for the business and prepare a budget draft  
  • Choose a great place to set up your dispensary  
  • Write a risk management plan  
  • Hire the right staff and build a good team  
  • Choose the latest technology  
  • Source the product  

Simplify the Journey with Cure8   

Starting a dispensary anywhere involves a lot of paperwork and effort, and Washington DC is no different. Despite potential improvements in the legal landscape, it is not easy to keep up with state and federal laws and regulations. Hence, adhering to the cannabis guidelines is the most crucial thing for any dispensary owner, that’s where cure8 comes into play.  

Cure8 is a top-notch technology solutions provider. We offer crucial technical support to assist cannabis businesses in tackling operational hurdles while adhering to local and state regulations.   

We ensure your technology runs smoothly, helping your dispensary excel and expand more efficiently. Contact us for further details about our sol

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