City Desk

Future of Medical Marijuana in the District Slow-Moving and Hazy

Vince Gray's deliberateness is shining in a few areas this week—one of which is medical marijuana.

A town hall hosted by the D.C. Patients' Cooperative last night was scheduled a month ago; the advocates that organized it had hoped that by the time the town hall occurred, the mayor would have signed off on regulations approved by the City Council in November 2010. Alas, no such action has happened, and the process to implement cannabis growth and distribution in the District is at an impasse until Gray gets around to acknowledging it.

D.C. Patients' Cooperative, a non-profit advocacy group, hopes to apply to run a dispensary. But, given the lack of approved legal infrastructure, last night's four-person panel couldn't give much beyond speculation of how some things, like access to cannabis for low-income patients, would actually function. Without the implementation of the regulations—and, thus, the implementation of a board to oversee the implementation of the regulations—advocates' hands are tied.

The Department of Health's Deputy Director, who drafted the medical marijuana statute, said "The next step is for each of the agencies that the mayor had delegated to implement the program to begin implementing the program. The Department of Health is doing their part, and the big bottleneck in the system is the mayor to appoint the panel that will accept applications for dispensaries and cultivation centers. It's out of the council's hands for now, which is what I represent, and it's really on the mayor to make the necessary appointments so the program can be implemented." ABRA director Fred Moosally and chairman Charles Brodsky were also in attendance.

Nonetheless, the group, which included D.C. Patients' Cooperative board members Nikolas Schiller and Adam Eidinger (who uses medical marijuana for his chronic arthritis) and Tony Bowles of the D.C. chapter of Americans for Safe Access, ably answered questions about what prospective patients, distributors, and growers might be able to expect if the regulations are approved.

A few highlights:

  • Patients will only be allowed to obtain their cannabis from one dispensary, which will be noted on their prescription card. This way, no one can double-dip and pick up the allowed 2 ounces at more than one dispensary.
  • "Cannabanoid profiles" break down what's in each strain of marijuana; notably, THC, the psychoactive agent that affects the brain, and CBD, which affects the rest of the body. Patients will, unquestionably, know more about what's in their marijuana than those that partake in the substance recreationally.
  • Medical marijuana in D.C. will likely be some of the most expensive in the country. Cannabis will need to be grown here, not imported, and rents are high. Home cultivation, which might reduce some of the expense, is expressly not allowed.
  • Patients do not need a clean record for a recommendation for medical marijuana; the recommendation is given by a doctor. Caregivers are allowed for patients who are not able to pick up their cannabis, but caregivers do need a record clear of drug convictions and felonies. Likewise, to work at a cultivation or dispensary, a record clear of drug convictions and felonies is required. (Yes, this means that you can have a history of violent crime or fraud and work at a dispensary or cultivation center.)
  • DCist notes that "If and when the program gets off of the ground, a big problem yet to be resolved is where cultivators will get their seeds. Getting them from out-of-state would be illegal, after all, so what are the options? The Metropolitan Police Department, ventured one advocate. Seeds from seized plants could be used, he argued."

One audience member asked if what was being discussed could actually be happening if the mayor had signed the regulations last month, as advocates had hoped. "Yes," said Schiller.

At the point, there's nothing for the advocates—and prospective patients—to do but wait, though there is little indication as to when Gray will get things rolling. Moosally indicated that the executive approval might come in the next few weeks.

Photo by Flickr user Mike_fj40 using an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license

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  • jsknow

    Any public servant that goes against the PEOPLE should be fired by the PEOPLE at the voting booth!

    The vast majority of problems attributed to marijuana are actually problems directly and completely caused by marijuana PROHIBITION!

    How many more lives have to be ruined by marijuana PROHIBITION before We The People step up and legalize marijuana?

    Why is the most useful plant known illegal? It’s illegal because corporations that buy politicians fear competition from superior, safer and more environmentally friendly hemp products and because the Government loves to oppress jail and steal from the people! Alcohol, tobacco, petroleum, cotton, timber, chemical and pharmaceutical companies, just to name a few, all see marijuana as unwanted competition. The best way for We The People to regain our Constitutional rights and liberties is to demand a complete ban on corporate lobbying. We are supposed to have Government of, for and by THE PEOPLE, not of, for and by corporations! Corporations are NOT people!

    Want your freedom back? Legalize marijuana! That will take away Uncle ”Sham’s” most common excuse to trash the Constitution and pretend like the Government is protecting you from a plant that has never killed anyone of any age in all of recorded history anywhere on planet earth!

    Marijuana does not cause aggressive behavior. Marijuana does not cause dangerous driving. Marijuana does not cause cancer, brain damage or any serious health problems. Marijuana prohibition does not keep kids away from marijuana, illegal dealers don’t ask for ID. Marijuana is not a “gateway drug”, there is absolutely NOTHING about marijuana that causes people to use other drugs. Marijuana is not addictive. In fact marijuana is one of the safest substances known! Marijuana is SAFER than many foods we consume and give to our kids all the time! Exactly what good is this prohibition doing and who is benefiting from it?

    When was the last time you heard of the cops being called to break up a fight at a marijuana party? NEVER! When was the last time you heard about a marijuana consumer beating his wife? NEVER! The cops and the politicians know marijuana is no threat to society but they keep screaming their fear mongering marijuana lies at every opportunity. Did you ever wonder why?

    THE LAWS PROHIBITING MARIJUANA ARE NOT A RESULT OF ANY HARM FROM MARIJUANA. THEY ARE THE RESULT OF LIES, GREED and racism. Read the well documented proof of that and a lot more marijuana TRUTH in these two articles: “MARIJUANA AND HEMP THE UNTOLD STORY, Thomas J. Bouril” and “WHY IS MARIJUANA ILLEGAL, Pete Guither”, click the links to those articles on this webpage:
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    No matter which side of this issue you’re on PLEASE read the two articles linked above. It’s almost certain you’ll learn things about marijuana and marijuana prohibition that you never knew before.


    Legalize marijuana and stop funding criminals, gangsters, illegal aliens and terrorists with hundreds of Billions in tax free $ every year. “When you fund something you get more of it” (Ron Paul). Does anyone really think we need more criminals, gangsters, illegal aliens and terrorists?

  • Skunk E Budd

    I was present in this Town hall meeting and it was full of questions and confusion. Most of the half-baked answers to the questions were simply pointless and verbal blather. The CURRENT mayor doesn't give a flying fuck about MMJ in DC. This is simply a money game, like always. This is not about helping people in need of medicine but a way to drum up more tax money for the city. It sucks that everything in this town is about the bottom line. Futhermore, they don't even have a plan to get seeds to grow the cannabis! I felt like I wasted my whole evening watching this clown show. When I walked in the cold night my heart felt empty and wondered what happpened to the compassion for the sick.

  • Harry

    VInce Gray and Co. are really doing DC residents a disservice. Congress lifted the ban on medical marijuana as written and passed by DC voters well over a decade ago. There was no need whatsoever to rewrite it for fear that Congress would clamp down. Congress tacitly approved the broadly worded version passed by voters when they lifted the ban!

    This type of gross government incompetence is why so many Americans are frustrated with government. Oh geez, it would be "illegal" to get seeds into the District. Guess what, it's illegal to possess marijuana as far as the feds are concerned. You can order them off the internet or you can force DC patients to consume cannabis grown from inferior cartel weed bag seed confiscated by police.

    I find it ironic that a city with such a large african-american population is working so hard to honor a war on marijuana that was specifically started to disenfranchise minorities in the early 1900s. At the time, the only users were Mexican migrant laborers and black jazz musicians. The 21st century practice of racial profiling in the war on some drugs is no accident. The original intent of the drug war was racial profiling.

  • joan

    i bet jsknow was high when he wrote that

  • http://medicalmarijuana Joy Tilmon

    How do it a medical marijuana card?