The State of Cannabis Legislation & Licensing: Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Washington, D.C.

Cannabis Business Licensing in DC

As the laws that govern cannabis business licensing in Maryland evolve, so do similar laws throughout the mid-Atlantic region. We’re currently living through a period of unprecedented growth and change in the United States’ cannabis landscape, so from our perspective, the easiest way to keep track of all these changes is to keep ourselves up to date region-by-region. Ready to learn more about Virginia cannabis licensing laws and other local news? Read on:

Maryland Cannabis Business Licensing

Cannabis business licensing in Maryland recently closed for social equity businesses. This first round of applications was entirely reserved for new recreational social equity dispensary, cultivation and processing licenses. The application process ran for nearly a month, from November 13 to December 12, 2023, for a total of 179 marijuana licensees. This group of licensees includes 75 dispensaries, 16 growers and 32 processors, and is overseen by the Maryland Cannabis Administration (MCA).

Maryland cannabis business licensing has related restrictions. For example, applicants may be associated with only one application per license type, and they are restricted from submitting more than two applications total in a single round. MCA said recently it “will not award any licenses that would violate statutory ownership or control restrictions,” meaning that those who apply for both standard and micro licenses can only be awarded one type. Further, more than one of the same license type will not be awarded in different regions of the state.

Cannabis Business Licensing in Pennsylvania

Governor Josh Shapiro’s signature is the last stop for a bill that would allow more Pennsylvania medical growers and processors to also act as retailers — and vice versa. Under the final version of the bill, all independent growers — those who are not subsidiaries of another permit holder — would be eligible for a dispensary permit, which would allow up to three retail locations. Similarly, all independent dispensaries would be eligible to make their own product, a boost for those holding small business cannabis business licensing in Pennsylvania.

While the legislature originally intended for limited vertically integrated operators, many companies have used subsidiaries to consolidate operations further, leaving the remaining entities who are truly independent at a disadvantage against those who both produce and retail cannabis, House Health Committee Chair Dan Frankel noted. “We believe it’s best to solve this problem and this problem alone” through the current bill, Frankel said.

West Virginia Cannabis Business Licensing

Although West Virginia cannabis business licensing is currently only open to testing facilities, the medical cannabis industry has proved to be quite popular. More than 21,000 state residents are approved for medical cards and 48 dispensaries are open within its borders. Per the Office of Medical Cannabis, 131 local physicians are registered to review patients and determine if any qualifying conditions are present.

Virginia Cannabis Business Licensing

In January, Democrats will officially retake control of the Virginia General Assembly, which has reignited optimism for recreational sales. Although Virginia legalized adult-use cannabis in 2021, with the first legal sales originally scheduled for January 1, 2024, the legalization bill (signed by Democrat then-Governor Ralph Northam) required lawmakers to pass a second adult-use measure.

Since Republicans retook the state House of Delegates, bipartisan efforts to pass a recreational cannabis bill have been unsuccessful. Further, current Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin is said to have no interest in setting up a legal marketplace. Democratic state Senator Adam Ebbin, who sponsored a previous bill, plans to introduce legislation this cycle. “My focus right now is on allowing the legal sale of legal, tested products to adults — and to combat the black market a bit,” Ebbin said.

“What Democrats controlling both chambers does is create a path to the governor’s desk for an adult-use retail sales bill,” said JM Pedini, development director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and executive director of NORML’s efforts in Virginia. “But,” Pedini added, “without the supermajority required to overturn a veto, any serious legislation must be both pragmatic and palatable in order to succeed.” Bottom line for Virginia cannabis business licensing hopefuls: be prepared.

Washington, D.C. Cannabis Business Licensing

On October 11, 2023, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the Medical Cannabis Clarification and Non-Resident Patient Access Temporary Amendment Act of 2023. Several notable provisions were introduced, including extended access (three days to one year) for non-resident patients, updates to testing lab procedures (registered patients can submit samples) and expanded criteria for social equity applicants (arrests and convictions for a cannabis or drug offense of qualifying family members are allowed, as well as grandparents and siblings).

Cannabis business licensing in Washington D.C. is open and upcoming for the areas below:

  • All operators currently licensed are eligible to apply for Cultivation Center, Manufacturer, and Retailer licenses through May 1, 2024.
  • Unlicensed operators can apply for Cultivation Center, Retailer, and Internet Retailer licenses through January 29, 2024.
  • Social equity applicants will be able to apply for Retailer and Internet Retailer licenses between March 1, 2024 and April 30, 2024.
  • Non-social equity applicants will be eligible to apply for Retailer and Internet Retailer licenses between July 1, 2024 and August 29, 2024.

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This article was originally published on July 2, 2019. It was updated on Jan. 3, 2024.

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