City Desk

Council Approves Medical Marijuana Bill in Preliminary Vote

Today, on the 20th day of April, shortly before 4:20 p.m., the Council of the District of Columbia took an initial vote to approve medical marijuana in D.C.

The council's action follows the decision by Congress last year to remove prohibitions on implementing a medical marijuana ballot initiative passed by city voters in 1998.

The legislation would allow distribution of cannabis to those determined by a doctor to be suffering from specific chronic diseases via a tightly regulated system. With only a limited number of city-sanctioned dispensaries to sell the marijuana, which is in turn grown only in a limited number of city-sanctioned cultivation operations, the District's legal pot industry stands to be much smaller and much more tightly regulated than in, say, California—a jurisdiction whose liberal attitude toward medical weed colored the debate here in the national capital.

Local and national marijuana advocates, many of them with experience in the California system, wanted looser regulations—including the right of medical marijuana users to grow their own supply. But local politicos, wary of interference from Congress, have tried mightily to keep plenty of leashes on the program.

A final vote is set for May 4, a date that has no significance whatsoever in marijuana culture. If passed and signed into law as expected, the dank could be available within months.

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