Mayor Approves Final Medical Marijuana Rules For D.C.


Photo: The Georgetowner
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray on Wednesday approved final regulations for medical marijuana in the District of Columbia.

‚ÄčMore than 12 years after D.C. voters overwhelmingly passed a medical marijuana ballot initiative, seriously ill residents of the District of Columbia will finally be able to begin using cannabis to treat certain medical conditions.

On Wednesday, Mayor Vincent Gray approved the final regulations on the licensing, distribution, and use of medical marijuana in the District. The full regulations will be published officially on April 15. The City Council has 30 days to review the regulations, but they will go into effect immediately on that date.

Once the final regulations are published, the Department of Health will begin taking applications from individuals or organizations hoping to open one of five medical marijuana dispensaries and 10 cultivation centers. These applications will be evaluated using an objective, scored system based on how well they meet criteria set forth in the regulations.
The dispensary applications will be reviewed by a panel that includes members of the Department of health, Metro Police, and other agencies tasked with oversight. Seriously ill D.C. residents will also be able to begin filling their applications for medical marijuana patient licenses.
“It’s been a long wait, but I’m glad that the thousands of District residents who might benefit from this program can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dan Riffle, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. “Now the work begins in selecting the most qualified individuals to grow and dispense marijuana, and ensuring our nation’s capitol sets another example of how carefully crafted medical marijuana programs can protect seriously ill patients in a safe, responsible, and effective manner.”
Patients who qualify for the program are looking forward to starting the application process, but are wary that the regulations do not go far enough to protect them.
“I’m glad the mayor is finally getting around to signing this into law,” said Theresa Skipper, an HIV patient from the District who has used marijuana to treat her condition. “Patients like me have waited long enough for legal access to our medicine, and knowing that we won’t have to wait much longer is a huge relief to all of us.”
“I just want to follow the rules and try to live a normal life, and this is an important step,” Skipper said, “but we need to continue working to protect the rights of patients under this system.”
The regulations will go into effect at a time when the Legislature in neighboring Maryland is considering adding additional legal protections for seriously ill patients who use marijuana for medical purposes. The Maryland Senate on March 24 passed S.B. 308, which creates a study panel to focus on how medical marijuana might work in that state, as well as to expand the existing affirmative defense options for patients.