Available Cannabis Licenses In Washington D.C. and Maryland

Cannabis Retail And Cultivation Licenses Coming Soon

Neighboring Washington D.C. and Maryland both have cannabis license application windows opening soon! The salient dates, data, and details for each are below. If you’ve ever applied in Washington D.C. or Maryland before, keep in mind that the two processes starting this November have been completely overhauled from the jurisdictions’ prior application windows. 

Lottery vs. Standard Application Window

Maryland’s cannabis business license application will culminate in a lottery after applicants have made it through the Social Equity Verification Portal and actual application process. Washington D.C. passed emergency regulations over the summer and will continue to open license application windows for various groups throughout the next year. 

Washington D.C. Adult-Use Sales In Development

As a reminder, both jurisdictions have legalized adult-use cannabis possession, and while regulated recreational retail sales are not yet permitted in Washington D.C., adults can self-certify for medical cannabis eligibility. This is neither jurisdiction’s first time running a cannabis licensing process, and both states released a slew of emergency regulations recently so there is lots to catch up on. While similarities do exist between these adjacent jurisdictions, the distinctions are striking.


Available Cannabis License Types and Population Sizes

As expected, cannabis license availability does vary by region and population, but that doesn’t necessarily limit the interest and potential for unique opportunities in each area.

Maryland License Opportunities

Maryland has a population of approximately 6 million residents and is home to nearly 100 licensed cannabis retailers. In this initial round of recreational licensing, the allocation of standard licenses is as follows and will be broken down by county/region:

Additionally, the state offers additional micro licenses to provide greater opportunities for a variety of business models, which may apply to convert to a standard license once it has been operational for at least 24 months.

Washington D.C. License Opportunities

In contrast, Washington, DC, holds a significantly smaller population, with approximately 670,000 residents—about a tenth of Maryland’s. Despite this, the region saw around 22 million visitors in 2022.

When it comes to licensed retailers, Washington, DC lags with only seven operating establishments. The license types available in the initial licensing window include:

  • Cultivation centers,
  • Internet retailers (similar to other markets’ delivery license)
  • Standard retailers

The proposed emergency regulations from August remove the limit on the number of license awards, though licensees cannot hold more than three retailer and internet retailer licenses.


Social Equity License Opportunities

Social equity has become a mainstay across new cannabis programs, helping to jump start this applicant category alongside options for all entrepreneurs.

Maryland Social Equity Licenses

In Maryland, the current application round is exclusively for social equity applicants. Hopeful licensees should use the Social Equity Verification Portal now to be sure they qualify for the next step!  

Washington D.C. Social Equity Licenses

In Washington D.C., 50% of licenses in each license category are set aside for social equity applicants, and conditional license approvals will count towards the 50% quota.

Different License Application Processes and Timelines

With different programs comes drastically different application steps and timelines. Our team is keeping an active pulse on the logistics as they develop and we recommend reviewing the latest information below on how, where, and when you can apply in both regions.

Maryland Applications

In Maryland, this initial application window is a social-equity-only lottery. The 30-day application window for new licenses will open on November 13, 2023—60 days after the application release in September 2023—and will close on December 12, 2023. Maryland applications will be accepted and reviewed by the Administration for pass or fail status before entering the lottery, and licenses are set to be awarded by January 2024.

Check out our guide to the Maryland application lottery to learn more about applying.

Washington D.C. Applications

For Washington D.C., the Standard and Social Equity Courier, Cultivation Center, and Manufacturer license application window is currently open until October 30, 2023. The cannabis business license application period for “unlicensed operators” (aka ‘sticker’ or ‘gifting’ shops) will take place between November 1, 2023 and January 29, 2024. During this period, eligible parties may apply for Cultivation Center, Internet Retailer, and Retailer licenses. Future application rounds for Retailers and Internet Retailers will take place from March-April 2024 (social equity) and July-August 2024 (standard/non-social equity)—now is the time to start business planning and securing property if you’re looking to secure a new retail license.


License Application Fees

  • Maryland: $5,000 for a standard adult use license and $1,000 for micro licenses.
  • Washington D.C.: $800 for a standard applicant and $200 for a social equity applicant.


Property Requirements For License Applications

Maryland Cannabis Property Requirements

In Maryland, the Administration is explicitly not allowed to require an applicant to possess or own property or a facility to operate a cannabis business at the time of the application. The Maryland application requires an operating plan, business plan, and diversity plan, which may refer to your selected property but is not required to. 

Washington D.C. Cannabis Property Requirements

In Washington D.C., Property is required for licensure, however, businesses without a property can apply for a Conditional License and will have a year to get all of the requirements together. On the other side of the spectrum, an applicant can submit a Stipulated License if they already have approval of their premises. Considering the geographical size of Washington D.C. and distance limitations, securing a suitable property is a crucial and competitive step. 


Time To Utilize Cannabis Consultants In Both Maryland and Washington D.C.

While extremely different in their market structure, these neighboring areas both offer unique cannabis business opportunities. However, their complexities call for seasoned experience in the region.

Whichever jurisdiction you’re considering, reach out to the consultants at Canna Advisors to get going in the right direction and see how we can help streamline your application to a win today. 

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