The District of Columbia’s medical marijuana law cleared a mandatory 30-day Congressional review period Monday night, after Congress declined to take action against a D.C. Council bill that allows the District to license between five and eight medical marijuana dispensaries, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said Tuesday.
The District joins 14 other states across the U.S. in having effective medical marijuana laws.
This historic development comes almost 12 years after 69 percent of District voters approved a referendum on medical marijuana in 1998. Congress had blocked the law’s implementation until last year.
Now the District Department of Health and Mayor Adrian Fenty are tasked with developing a set of regulations for dispensaries that will be licensed to distribute medical marijuana to qualified patients.
Medical marijuana is not fully legal yet in D.C., as the new law allows qualified patients to legally possess marijuana only if it comes from a licensed dispensary.
“After thwarting the will of the voters for more than a decade, Congress is no longer standing in the way of effective relief for D.C. residents who struggle with chronic ailments,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP
“This moment is a long overdue victory for both D.C. home rule and the wellbeing of District residents whose doctors believe medical marijuana can help ease their pain,” Kampia said.
Under the law, patients who are suffering from chronic conditions including HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis, and receive an authorization from their doctor, will be able to obtain safe access to medical marijuana through a system of licensed dispensaries.
A task force will be charged with, among other things, recommending additional conditions, such as PTSD or severe, chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions.
Unfortunately, D.C. patients will not be allowed to grow their own cannabis, unlike the laws in 13 out of 14 medical marijuana states (New Jersey being the sole exception). The task force, however, will also “examine the issue” of home cultivation.
Medical marijuana will be subject to the city’s six percent sales tax.