Becoming a Patient in the District of Columbia

The law and rules allow registered patients and caregivers to possess up to four (4) ounces of dried medical cannabis or other forms (e.g., edibles, tinctures, topicals, etc.). In addition, Initiative 71 legalized the personal cultivation of up to six marijuana plants, with no more than three being mature, by adults 21 and older in their personal residences. In order to become registered, a patient must receive a recommendation from a physician who is licensed to practice medicine in the District.

Authorized health care providers submit patient recommendations to the Department of Health. Once a patient has been issued a recommendation, they must submit a registration application to the DOH. Registration applications may be submitted electronically or in hard copy format; the forms are available at DC's Health Department website. The application fee is $100. Patients whose income is equal to or less than two hundred percent (200%) of the federal poverty level pay a reduced fee application fee of $25. Instructions on how to demonstrate eligibility for the reduced rate are included in the application and are available at the program's proof of income resource.

In addition to the application form, patients must upload a recent passport-type photograph, a clear copy of U.S., state, or District government-issued photo ID as proof of identity, and proof of District residency (e.g., lease/rental agreement, utility bill, etc.). (Patients who submit a hard copy of their application must submit two (2) passport-style photographs.) As of September 12, 2019, a REAL ID driver's license issued by the DC Department of Motor Vehicles can be used in lieu of two other forms of acceptable identification to prove District residency.

There is no restriction on minors being medical cannabis patients in the District of Columbia. However, the parent or legal guardian of a minor in need of medical cannabis therapy must grant informed consent and agree to serve as the minor patient's caregiver (or designate another adult over 18 years of age to be their child's caregiver). Minor patients are not allowed to administer their own medicine. Emancipated minors do not need a parent or guardian to grant consent or agree to be their caregiver. Parents or guardians of minor patients should use the Minor Patient Application Form on the DOH Medical Marijuana website.

Eligible conditions:

Qualifying medical or dental condition: Any condition for which treatment with medical marijuana would be beneficial, as determined by the patient's authorized practitioner.

Qualifying medical or dental treatment: (a) chemotherapy; (b) the use of azidothymidine or protease inhibitors; (c) radiotherapy; or (d) any other treatment, as determined by rulemaking, whose side effects require treatment through the administration of medical marijuana in the same manner as a qualifying medical or dental condition.

Becoming a Patient as a Minor:

Patients under the age of 18 may apply with the permission of a patent or legal guardian who will have to read and sign an attestation regarding what becoming a patient will mean.

Benefits of Being a Patient:

Private employers are not required to accommodate on-the-job consumption of medical cannabis and are not prohibited from terminating employees for the use of cannabis outside of work. Public employees have greater protection: the Government of the District of Columbia "may not refuse to hire, terminate from employment, penalize, fail to promote, or otherwise take adverse employment action against an individual based upon the individual's status as a qualifying patient unless the individual used, possessed, or was impaired by marijuana at the individual's place of employment or during the hours of employment."

Patients in DC also gain the benefit of shopping at one of the District's dispensaries.

Becoming a Caregiver:

A patient must list their caregiver on the patient application form; however, caregivers must also fill out their own application form, which is found on the DOH Medical Marijuana website. Instructions are similar to those for patient applicants, including photo and ID requirements and eligibility for reduced fees for financial hardship.

Caregiver application forms are submitted with the patient's patient application form.

All those apply to be a caregiver must submit to a criminal background check. There is a separate fee for the background check from the caregiver application fee. Instructions on how to schedule a background check are found on page 2 of the caregiver application form.

DC Department of Health has more information and required forms.

Caregivers have the same legal protections that patients have, except they are strictly forbidden from consuming and of their patient's medical cannabis. Caregivers who divert medical cannabis to a party other than their patient are subject to penalties under the District's controlled substances act.

Out of State Patients:

The District of Columbia allows reciprocity from out of state patients from equivalent medical cannabis programs.

Home Cultivation:

Any adult over the age of 21 may grow up to six mature plants in a secure location, either indoors or in a fenced area. A household with 2 adults can have up to 12 mature plants at a time. While the law has specific limitations on mature plants, no restrictions exist on clones or immature plants. The law defines "mature plants" as a plant that is flowering, meaning a plant at any stage before flowering is considered immature in the eyes of the law.