City Desk

Council Looks to Expand Medical Marijuana Program


Grosso's bill would increase the capacity of D.C. marijuana cultivators.

Both the growing and use of medical marijuana could get a boost if two D.C. Council amendments to current District law are approved. Two D.C. Council committees heard testimony today on the measures—one that would allow for cultivators to grow more marijuana and another that would allow for a wider number of patients to receive medical marijuana prescriptions.

At-Large Councilmember David Grosso's Medical Marijuana Plant Cultivation Amendment Act of 2014 would allow for cultivation centers to grow up to 500 plants, up from the current limit of 95 plants. But with just three cultivators operating even though D.C. law allows for 10—and with fewer than 400 participants in the medical marijuana program despite projections of 800 by this time—one topic of debate was whether the city's nascent medical pot industry even needs extra room to grow.

While Dr. Joxel Garcia, the director of the District Department of Health, argued that cultivators don't need 500 plants, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells defended the boost as a matter of business, not health. Grosso added, "If it were up to me, we wouldn't even stop at 500, we would allow the businesses to decide."

If dispensaries are allowed to expand their capacity, it could diversify the kinds of marijuana products available to patients. Vanessa West of Metropolitan Wellness Center said growers currently don't offer edibles because of their limited number of plants, and in fact, no D.C. cultivator has applied to offer such products. However, "if the plant cap is lifted, edibles would be available in 90 days," West said.

The less controversial of the measures, The Medical Marijuana Expansion Act of 2014, which was introduced by all 13 members of the Council, would allow for more residents into the system by giving physicians the ability to prescribe marijuana to patients who do not have one of the currently approved conditions. The current system, in which only patients suffering from a small number of conditions can access medical pot, has been criticized for excluding those who suffer from other conditions that cause chronic pain.

The one voice of dissent at the hearing was Dr. Krishna Upadhya, an assistant professor of pediatrics at John Hopkins Pediatric Specialty Clinic who brought up concerns about the use of a plant that she said has no medical benefits. She also argued that medical marijuana legislation sends the "erroneous signal to youth that marijuana is beneficial." For now, it seems, the Council disagrees.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Corky

    And the slippery slope towards full legalization begins. I guess they are going to wait until someone kills the child of a prominent person while driving stoned before they realize what a stupid idea MJ legalization is.

  • mitch

    Dorky, people get killed every day by drunk drivers,pharmaceutical medicines,cell phones,texting etc... Stoned drivers are very much less likely to cause serious accidents due to the fact of being aware of their altered state.A dutch study in the early 2000's proved that a stoned driver is a cautious driver compared to the above, which is legal but fatal.Legal Cannabis/hemp will help humanity much more in everyway than your misguided reply. Facts...

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  • john

    After 6 months waiting around for this so called disaster to happen, like honestly if it was so bad show me the pile of bodies, how many people died of alcohol so far? And its a fair comparison because no one is rallying against all the death alcohol causes, and also because prohibition of alcohol made things worse and there was even more death.Corky, once you realize you can not stop death from happening maybe your life will be better.and you also talk like there was never marijuana before this, its always been here. And no, pot use does not increase after legalization. Are you gonna get some weed ? No right? That's because the people buying legal weed are the same ones who were buying pot off the street, people dont use drugs just because they are legal, do you get high on robitussin? That's legal but I dont see everyone doing it.

  • Businessasusual

    Onward and upward, strange bedfellows, tax and smoke, smoke and tax, mirrors everywhere.

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  • Kevin Hunt

    Hey Dorky, fatal wrecks have gone DOWN in Colorado since legalization.

    Colorado Historical Fatal Crash Trends - Updated 2/8/2014

    Colorado fatal crashes 2002: 677

    Colorado fatal crashes 2004: 596

    (dispensaries open in 2009)

    Colorado fatal crashes 2009: 438

    Colorado fatal crashes 2012: 433

    Colorado fatal Crashes 2013: 422

    * Source of Data: Colorado DOT & "As Reported" to NHTSA by FARS

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  • Corky

    You dumb asses obviously are on drugs. Of course, expanding the availability of a drug that impairs judgment and motor function is going to have an impact on public safety! I have personally seen people driving high on pot in DC and Maryland who have wiped out or nearly wiped out other cars. And it was quite obvious that they were smoking pot--you know the smell. John, your argument is basically "People die everyday, so just get used to it" Are you fucking kidding me? Drunk driving deaths decreased dramatically in this country when the drinking age was raised to 21 and the acceptable blood alcohol level was reduced to .08. Now we are about to unleash a new class of impaired drivers on the roads (and sidewalks, when they zone out and crash). What a bunch of idiots!

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  • Joey

    Thank god, this should have happened decades ago. Anyone who believes the prohibition of marijuana should continue is too stupid to be speaking on this or any other subject.

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