The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act and the Pivotal Changes Coming to DC 2023

In January 2023, The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022 (MCAA) went into effect, and this means some big changes in DC weed laws. The MCAA opens the medical dispensary market allowing you to purchase medical marijuana without a doctor's note, and paves the way for unlicensed Initiative 71 gifting stores to transition into full-blown licensed medical dispensaries by 2024.

The notorious Harris Rider bill continues to block DC from using their tax dollar budget to create a recreational market, so over 100 unregulated gifting stores now operate in DC. The MCAA’s primary purpose is to help transition these gifting stores into medical dispensaries, and at the same time bring sales back to the licensed dispensaries. In this article, we go over The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act and what it means to you as a DC resident or I71 dispensary owner.

An Overview of the MCAA Bill in 2023

The MCAA bill (DC B24-0113) which was signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser allows:

  • Residents and non-residents no longer need a doctor's note for a medical card, you can self-certify online and get instant access to purchase medical cannabis that day.
  • Allows a gateway for unlicensed gifting stores to obtain a medical cannabis business license, with 50% of licenses reserved to anyone convicted and imprisoned for cannabis charges.
  • Create safe-use facilities where medical patients can smoke legally.
  • Creates new license categories and endorsements such as online cannabis business, cannabis cooking classes, cannabis tasting events, and summer garden events.

The bill also uses funding to:

  • Create a civil enforcement mechanism for businesses and commercial property owners distributing or selling cannabis without a license, known as the “Joint Cannabis Task Force”
  • Creates a sales tax relief during the biggest sales week of 4-20 for medical dispensaries
  • Rebrands the organization ABRA to ABCA

Below, we will go over each component of The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022:

1. Medical marijuana cards no longer require a doctor's note


Whether you are a DC resident or non-resident, the MCAA makes it extremely easy for anyone to acquire a medical marijuana card that is 21 years of age. Where you once had to get a physician's note, pay a fee, and wait weeks for a card, now you only need to fill out a simple digital form and self-certify your need for medical marijuana and purchase medical cannabis that day.

Self-certification simply is an option you click on the medical marijuana form that bypasses the need for a doctor's note. Most of the medical marijuana dispensaries in DC have intake programs that help you fill out the digital form and get you shopping for medical cannabis, all in under 5 minutes.

See our full guide on: how to get a self-certify DC medical marijuana card

2. Gifting stores now have the opportunity to go medical


In 2023 there are currently over 100 gifting dispensaries. These are unregulated recreational dispensaries that sell a digital art print or sticker for $60 and then “gift” you cannabis, in respect to the Initiative 71 law which allows gifting of cannabis but not sales. The gifting market is currently the dominant recreational market because of the superior quality and lower prices, and with no medical card required to purchase cannabis. 

The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2021 removes the cap on the number of licensed medical dispensaries that can operate in DC. Previously this cap was set to only allow 7 licensed medical dispensaries but with the removal of this cap, many I71 gifting stores now can  apply to qualify to become medical dispensaries by early 2024. The application date was closed 90 days after the bill's passing.

Want to skip the medical card process? Check out our guide on the best places to buy weed in DC without a medical marijuana card.

3. New medical marijuana retail categories will open up in DC

The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act is also opening up new medical marijuana retail categories, which is one I’m particularly excited about. Not only will we get new medical dispensaries, you can expect to see some entirely new cannabis retail spaces in 2024 such as:

  • New medical “internet retailers” (medical DC weed delivery)
  • Cannabis tasting events in a safe-use facility
  • Cannabis cooking classes in a safe-use facility
  • Summer garden events that allow sales in private outdoor spaces

The DC community already has some amazing DC weed events from stoner painting classes and cannabis comedy shows that I attend daily. With the new “Safe-use” facilities, we will finally have pre-approved places to consume cannabis in Washington DC in 2024. 

This is big news because for the most part you are only allowed to smoke weed in DC at home, and for many residents and tourists that’s not possible because of leasing agreements and hotel policies. Until the “Safe-use” facilities come into effect, knowing where to smoke weed in DC is important to avoid legal issues.

4. Medical cannabis tax holiday on 4-20

Good news for all medical dispensaries in DC, the MCAA bill adds an annual sales tax holiday on the Calendar dates of April 15-24! We all know April 20th (4-20) is one of the highest grossing sales days for any medical dispensary, so this nice tax-holiday will allow medical dispensaries to make plenty of extra revenue in Q2 and also give amazing deals for the DC community.


The week of April 15-24 also falls during DC 420 week, which host tons of cannabis network events and additional sales leading right into the DC National Cannabis Festival on 4-20.


This tax relief will directly impact how the medical dispensaries in DC price their cannabis. You can expect huge deals and also amazing bulk deals, so if there was ever a day to stock up on cannabis, the week of April 15-24 is the week to buy! If you're traveling from out of state, DC medical marijuana reciprocity welcomes over 35 states medical cannabis cards, which means your out-of-state patient card will also work here in DC.

5. Half of the medical licenses are going to anyone harmed by cannabis criminalization 

50% of the new medical marijuana licenses will be set aside for those that were disproportionately harmed by cannabis criminalization. “'The War on Marijuana in Black and White” report found that DC had the second-highest racial disparity in marijuana arrest, second to Iowa. So if you have any prior convictions for cannabis charges, you will be included in the medical cannabis industry in DC at all levels.


Not only will 50% of the new medical cannabis licenses be set aside for DC residents that have been convicted of cannabis related charges, 75% of these applicants will get their license fees and application fees waived for the first three years.

6. New medical cannabis packaging and label requirements

The Cannabis Amendment Act also stresses greatly on the word “manufacturer”. DC wants all its cannabis products, medical or gifting, to become regulated by being manufactured in a facility operated by an organization or business registered with ABCA.


Currently, DC has a wide range of unregulated cannabis products that is much more popular because of the higher potency and lower prices. This raises a public safety concern, as there is currently no regulation on many of these products. While I’ve been shopping at both medical dispensaries and gifting stores, I can tell you right now there are some amazing options if you want to find some amazing DC ediblescarts, and concentrates at extremely low prices.


This not only includes the process of medical concentrates or medical cannabis-infused products, but also the packaging and labels on any medical cannabis products. This portion of the law gives the I71 gifting store a clear plan of action to transition their products from “unregulated” to regulated.


One of the key focus on the new packaging and label requirements is to regulate any pesticides used during the cultivation practice. Medical cannabis has much stricter guidelines when it comes to pesticides or substances used as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant. This portion of the ACT’s primary focus is public safety, so the THC products we smoke and consume are void of any harmful pesticides.

7. Rebranding of ABRA to ABCA

The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act also changed ABRA (Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration) to ABCA (Alcohol Beverage and Cannabis Board). ABCA will also be rolling out a rebranding campaign. Interesting enough, the verbiage “medical marijuana” was also struck from the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act and replaced as “medical cannabis”.

Final Thoughts

The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022 is one of the biggest changes we have seen to cannabis in laws in DC since Initiative 71. While most of the bigger changes won't be seen or felt within the DC community until 2024, the self-certify program allows you to obtain a medical marijuana card today without a doctor's note. 


In 2024, we can expect to see some big changes from regulation of cannabis packaging to safe-use facilities allowing cannabis cooking classes, tasting events, and summer sales events. Most importantly, we will see the transition of many unregulated I71 gifting stores to transition into licensed medical dispensaries, included a few licensed reserved for entirely online cannabis retailers.