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Medical Marijuana Debate Begins Anew: Loose Lips Daily

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Greetings all. It's really happening: Medical marijuana legislation was introduced in the D.C. Council yesterday, implementing the 1998 voter initiative stymied until recently by Congress and setting D.C. on the path to join 14 states legalizing doctor-prescribed cannabis. The system established under the initial bill is strict indeed—making it clear that the city fathers have no intention of establishing a California-style free-for-all. Tim Craig reports in WaPo: 'Council member David A. Catania, chairman of the Health Committee, said the proposal, which could be voted on by the summer, would guarantee that the drug went to those who need it while guarding against a "Camp Run-amok program that invites [Congress] to come in and shut it down.' Doctors, patients, caregivers, and dispensaries would be subject to rigorous regulations under the law. Only five dispensaries would be allowed, and none could be within 1,000 feet of a school or child-care center. And if you have a felony or misdemeanor drug conviction, forget about working there. Also Examiner.

AFTER THE JUMP—Council votes extension on contracts dispute, Jaffe calls them the 'Adrianettes'; United Medical Center cash flow problem causes weekend supply shortage; miracle in Bloomingdale; Cafritz not happy with Ellington moving plans; could be nine months to find new Metro GM

MORE ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA—'The most daunting [question] is who can be trusted to grow and distribute the drug. The city must also decide where dispensaries could securely grow crops in the District. Shipping the drug across state lines through Maryland and Virginia is not an option, because in those states it's still illegal to grow or transport marijuana for medical purposes. "That is going to be resolved by rulemaking by the mayor," Catania said. Attorney General Peter Nickles said the administration would work with the council on the legislation....Catania notes any organization that distributed the drug in the District would be taking a risk because medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law. President Obama said last year that the Justice Department will no longer interfere with local medical marijuana laws. But Catania fears a future administration could take a different stance. "I would rather not have the Department of Health engaged in the cultivation of marijuana," Catania said.'

TOO STRICT?—Chuck Thies makes the argument on his blog: 'Putting more government between patient and physician is contrary to public opinion, the will of the voters who passed the medical marijuana Initiative in 1998 and is clearly not in the best interests of patients.'

In other legislative meeting news, the D.C. Council indeed voted to give Mayor Adrian M. Fenty another week to submit option-year contracts, even though there is no evidence that Fenty is willing to deal, Nikita Stewart reports in WaPo. 'Tuesday's vote appears to be the start of a compromise by the council.' But it's hard to say what shape that compromise might take: 'Asked whether the council would be willing to stop payments, [Gray] said, "What you're really asking is are we willing to give up our authority on these contracts." He added that no council member is willing to do that...."The Administration's position remains the same," Mafara Hobson, the mayor's spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. "We believe option year contracts are valid and binding."'

ALSO—In his Examiner column, Harry Jaffe says that Fenty's already won: 'After watching the city council's lack of resolve Tuesday, I wonder whether we shouldn't start thinking of it as a 14-member group, with Fenty part of the team. Only he has a veto. Or Vince Gray will do whatever he asks. During the Marion Barry mayoral era, we called the council Marionettes. Adrianettes sticks in this case.'

The situation at United Medical Center is awfully precarious: Last weekend, the hospital's cash flow issues meant that a key shipment of basic medical supplies was delayed, WJLA-TV/NC8 reports, Kenny Lyons, the EMS union chief and an EMT himself, says 'paramedics pulled basics like IVs and gauze off their ambulances and gave ER staff supplies they needed to help patients.' He also claims his ambulance, carrying an elderly patient from a nursing home next door, was diverted to a more distant hospital—a charge that UMC denies. Says Lyons, 'They are dealing with battlefield conditions and they are being asked to provide care with literally nothing.' In a release yesterday, stalwart ally David Catania announced that he visited the hospital and 'told a packed room that despite some temporary financial difficulty, UMC will withstand the challenges posed by the current economy' and that he's 'hard at work constructing a solution that will secure the hospital's future.' His quote: 'United Medical Center will not close so long as I chair the Committee on Health.'

Kudos to Hizzoner: Fenty is allowing the Haitian embassy to use city emergency management equipment to direct relief efforts in Port-au-Prince. Reports WaPo: 'The new command center will include 20 computers, 20 phone lines and a staff of volunteers that Fenty said "will be extremely critical in running the operations at the Embassy and providing information."' Also WTOP, NC8, WTTG-TV.

Miracle in Bloomingdale: Firefights pull three suffocating on carbon monoxide from house on unit block of Seaton Place NW. The victims, a 49-year-old man and two 15-year-old boys, were taken to George Washington University and are recovering, says WaPo. 'Officials took carbon monoxide readings in the home and reported levels of 1,000 parts per million. "That is extremely high. Any readings of 30 to 50 parts per million and we put on our hazmat suits," [FEMS spokesperson Pete Piringer] said....One of the teens was on the phone with a counselor when the teen complained of feeling ill and began talking incoherently. The counselor called his supervisors and they called 911, Piringer said. "It was very astute on [the counselor's] part," Piringer said. "We think we probably got there in the nick of time."' Also WRC-TV, NC8, WTTG-TV, who interview the counselor.

District school officials submit their 189-page application for federal 'Race to the Top' funding, Bill Turque reports in WaPo. It claims that D.C. 'boasts the nation's most exciting, dynamic reform agenda' and that the federal funding would represent 'a political win...signifying endorsement of difficult decisions about removal [of ineffective teachers] that have already been made and are planned to continue.' DCPS and 30 charters are jointly requesting $112M 'to turn around failing schools, strengthen the ability to gather data on students and toughen teacher evaluation systems so that 50 percent of all District educators' annual reviews would be based on student achievement.' But WTU President George Parker didn't sign the application; he 'cited his opposition to the District public schools' new IMPACT evaluation the reason for his refusal.'arbitrary, especially when the District has failed to provide basic support to teachers in classrooms that often are in disarray.' Leah Fabel notes in Examiner that 'some of the funds would support the completion of the city's SLED project—the beleaguered effort to track individual student achievement year to year.' Also WAMU-FM.

ALSO—Turque talks to Peggy Cooper Cafritz about reported plans to move the Duke Ellington School for the Arts (which she co-founded) to a Capitol Hill location: 'Cafritz said she was "stunned" by the [revelations], and the idea that the much smaller Logan could ever be a suitable location for Ellington. "I've had tons of meetings in Logan," she said. "It's absurd. It's beyond the pale." Cafritz said that while she supports [Rhee] and [Fenty], she added: "This administration has a tendency to decide it is going to do something and then to just do it."'

Someone—D.C. Jail or Superior Court—mistakenly released an inmate, Wisdom Martin reports at WTTG-TV. Tira Williams was arrested in December on theft and assault charges and a judge ordered her held on Jan. 15. 'But somehow that same day, she was erroneously released from custody by the D.C. jail. City officials released a statement about the incident. "After receiving notice from the D.C. Superior Court to release an individual, the DOC did so, only to subsequently be informed by the court that they had made an error, and accordingly, the DOC is in the process of bringing the individual back into custody."'

Metro is spending $739K on ads promoting Metrobus, Kytja Weir reports in Examiner. 'The campaign, under the slogan "The new Metrobus. See how far we've come," touts changes made to the agency's bus system in local print and radio spots that began in September and are slated to run until March. Some are also posted in Metro stations and buses as free advertising for the authority. But the ads do not explain much of the changes that have actually occurred. And the agency had two high-profile bus accidents, including one death, since the actual changes began.'

ALSO—Permanent GM search could take six to nine months, WMATA honchos tell WTOP. Says Jim Graham: 'The job is not going to go begging....There's going to be a very strong interest in this position.' Dr. Gridlock has a full rundown of the appearance.

Examiner's Freeman Klopott looks at changes to MPD liason units: 'With the expansion, each unit will now include patrol officers who have received training on "diverse communities," their issues and how to best serve them, liaison unit supervisor Capt. Edward Delgado said in an e-mail. The new patrol officers will be distributed throughout the city and provide the department with around-the-clock liaison abilities.'

Mercedes SLK impounded and auctioned by the city generates a lawsuit, Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner. The car, belonging to one Stephen Yelverton, was sold last March. 'But Yelverton, a D.C. lawyer now in bankruptcy, still owed $42,606 on the car when it was impounded. Michigan-based DCFS USA, the lienholder, had issued a default notice the previous September, according to court documents. Yelverton had not made a car payment since June 2008. DCFS, a subsidiary of Daimler Investments, claims it was not informed by the District that the vehicle was impounded, as the D.C. Code requires. The firm sued Jan. 11 for due process violations and demanded damages plus interest, costs and attorney's fees.'

Read Ron Machen's Senate questionnaire, courtesy of Legal Times! Did you know he helped the Obama campaign vet veep candidates? Or that we was part of the WilmerHale team that investigated the Harriette Walters scandal?

Allen Lengel at Tickle the Wire has a look at the Gilbert Arenas case—in particular how Arenas lawyer Ken Wainstein was charged with negotiating with the U.S. attorney's office he used to run: 'Did it help for Arenas to have Wainstein, an insider, somebody who knew the system? Somebody who knew office policy and office personalities and what type of pleas had been doled out in many cases in the past?'

Man who died after Arlington tasering was PDCP addict, father tells WaPo. 'In an interview Tuesday, William Bumbrey II, 54, of the District, said that he thinks the Taser's jolt killed his son but that he would reserve judgment until the autopsy results come back. He said his son had fallen on hard times, battling drug addiction, living in a homeless shelter and weak from kidney dialysis.'

Carlton R. Coltrane, 25, a D.C. convicted of a 2007 bank robbery in Virginia, was murdered Monday in a federal prison in Louisiana.

More on the heroic burning-car rescue Sunday at the National Cathedral, from Matt Zapotosky at WaPo. The man who rescued the car's driver was District resident Kevin McDonnell. 'Clearly the biggest concern, and why I don't think anyone else approached the car, was the fire was moving backwards. It was just a matter of time before the gas tank ignited, which it was kind enough to do after we got him to the top of the hill....I just couldn't sit there and literally watch another person get burned up in his car.'

WBJ's Jonathan O'Connell looks at the Tewkesberry, a city-financed development built by Scottie Irving's Blue Skye Construction that's 'on its way to becoming an example of how the city can upgrade a neighborhood and add to its overall tax base....The Tewkesberry is unique for another reason: It is one of Mayor Adrian Fenty's only economic development projects that is actually getting built....No one could have predicted the deep and enduring collapse that the housing market experienced beginning in 2005. The result is that to this point, Fenty has staged far more RFP announcements than groundbreakings, much less ribbon cuttings. The Tewkesberry looks to be an exception. Irving says to expect a grand opening this spring.'

ALSO—$50M HUD loan for Yale Steam Laundry project on New York Avenue NW. 'The lending program, known as Section 220 insures lenders against loss on mortgage defaults and, unlike other HUD programs, does not require that a portion of the units be made affordable.'

Could Randi Weingarten's big speech lead to a DCPS contract breakthrough?'Immediately following the speech, the new superintendent of Houston ISD in Texas sought to use Weingarten's words to alter the dynamic of his negotiations with the local union on measuring teacher effectiveness. And Eduflack would be shocked if Michelle Rhee isn't plotting the same thing in DC, using the speech to end her long stalemate with the Washington Teachers Union and seeking to do away with teacher tenure in our nation's capital by moving Weingarten's words into quick practice.'

The Slow Cook goes inside the kitchen at H.D. Cooke ES. 'The system is precisely designed for optimum efficiency, convenience and economies of scale. As I discovered during my week in the H.D. Cooke kitchen, "fresh cooked"–the food our children are served here in the nation's [capital] every day–is a perfect reflection of the prevailing industrial methods that rule our nation's food supply. Meal components are highly processed and reconstituted, some with ingredients provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's commodities food program, and come from factories all over the country. Human intevention has been reduced to an absolute minimum. It's cheap, it's fast, and it's easy.'

Eleanor Holmes Norton to Salahis: Don't use me as an excuse to plead the Fifth! 'Members of Congress are not stripped of their right to state their opinions before, after or in the course of committee investigations,' she says in release.

D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute responds to yesterday's WaPo story on lines at D.C. service centers, saying it 'underscore[s] the human impact of recent budget cuts.'

Parking meter changes are pretty much done, DCist reports.

14th and You looks at why small retailers are having a hard time on the midtown 14th Street strip.

Marion Barry talks with WTTG-TV about Haiti.

D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—9:30 a.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary roundtable on 'Continuing Overtime and Pay Problems in the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department,' JAWB 412; 10 a.m.: Committee on Finance and Revenue hearing on PR18-670 ('The Smithsonian Institution Refunding Revenue Bonds Project Approval Resolution of 2010') and PR18-671 ('St. Patrick's Episcopal Day School Revenue Bonds Project Approval Resolution of 2010'), JAWB 120; Committee on Economic Development meeting (scheduled), JAWB 123; Committee on Government Operations and the Environment hearing on B18-521 ('Human and Environmental Health Protection Amendment Act of 2009'), JAWB 500; 2 p.m.: Committee on Human Services meeting (scheduled), JAWB 123.

ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—10:30 a.m.: remarks, U.S. Conference of Mayors, Capital Hilton, 1001 16th St. NW.

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  • MarijuanaLobby

    Marijuana is one of the most complex organic substances known, it needs to be legalized and fully researched — so more and more of its potential can be discovered.
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  • Joan

    Chuck Sleaze trying his best to cash in.

  • littlbit

    Come on USA, your constitution and your bill of rights, should have ended this argument on day one. Cannabis must be legalised given aspirin kills daily, alcohol is the largest issue facing every police force in the western world, prescription drugs do more damage than they do good.

    So someone tell me why cannabis is illegal anywhere? Where is the evidence to back the drugs policies of governments, especially our governments in the west who claim they are representing the people, and the will of the people, 70-90% of the western countries citizens say legalise, so where is the will of the people in the drug laws?

    Come on America, demand they obey the peoples constitution and bill of rights, they simply do not have the power if you don't give it to them, it ain't rocket science.

    The rest of us are doing our bit, it's time you lot got your act together and brought them to heel, NOW.

  • David Scott

    Marijuana prohibition has been a total failure and is perhaps this country's greatest mistake. Not only has it created criminals out of nearly a third of the country's populace, it costs our society billions of dollars every year, creates a strain on our prison system, and has little or no effect on marijuana use in the US. In some cases, prosecuting marijuana use has turned non-violent, middle class kids into violent and unpredictable, career criminals. Once a person has a criminal conviction on their record, they are far less likely to find a good job and become a useful member of society. Other countries with more liberal drug laws have much lower rates of drug addiction among their people. I invite you to my web-page devoted to raising awareness on the assault on our civil liberties:

  • IMGoph

    thanks for actually noting that the CO poisoning story actually took place in bloomingdale, not in eckington, as the wapo story stated.

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