D.C. Medical Marijuana Rules Take Effect Next Week


Photo: Clarissa Stark

‚ÄčIn the U.S. capitol, the District of Columbia’s medical marijuana program’s rules governing who can grow, dispense and buy marijuana go into effect next week, once they’re published in the D.C. Register.

The rules, originally drafted and opened to public comment last August, had some changes requested by medical marijuana advocates in a second version released in November, reports Martin Austermuhle at the DCist. However, the system envisioned by city officials is extremely restrictive and not particularly patient-friendly (or dispensary-friendly, either, for that matter).

Under the program’s rules, only five marijuana dispensaries and 10 cultivation centers will be allowed, and starting either one will be expensive. Patients will only be able to buy two ounces of cannabis each month.
The rules would be taking effect today, Friday, January 14, according to when they were submitted to the D.C. Council, but they only become legally valid once published in the D.C. Register, which should happen next week.
At this point, the rules, imperfect as they are, cannot be changed without going through the entire onerous rule-making process again.
With the rules ready to take effect next week, D.C. Mayor Vince Gray now has to appoint the four-person board that will give out licenses for dispensaries and cultivation centers, and the Department of Health has to implement the rules applying to patients and doctors.
Until the dispensary and cultivation center positions are filled, “the District’s medical marijuana program will remain an idea that looks great on paper alone,” the DCist reports. Repeated requests to the mayor’s office for a status update on the process went unanswered.
The slow pace of the D.C. medical marijuana program has frustrated some activists, many of whom have found leases left hanging by potential tenants until they could be sure the rules would take effect and have someone to govern their implementation.
Some advocates have pointed to Arizona as an example of bureaucratic efficiency. The medical marijuana program in that state was only approved by voters last November and is expected to be fully functioning and supplying patients with medicinal cannabis by this summer.