Though legal medical marijuana sales have been allowed since July if this year in our nation’s capitol and dispensaries are open and in operation, less than 60 people have actually signed up for the program — or just 0.0093 percent of the population.
The problem isn’t a lack of interest, dispensary owners argue. It’s that the process of obtaining a recommendation is difficult and the city is strictly regulating who is and isn’t eligible for medical cannabis access.
D.C. city council held an open town-hall style meeting on medical marijuana Monday to hear concerns from dispensary owners and patients alike. Even the district’s Department of Health seems baffled by the lack of patients.
We were prepared to see up to 200 to 300 patients showing up into our offices,” said Feseha Woldu, deputy director at the D.C. Department of Health said at the meeting.
Steph Sherer, spokeswoman with Americans for Safe Access which lobbies on behalf of medical marijuana patients, said the application is unnecessarily long and burdensome. She said it also is so narrowly written that it scares doctors into recommending cannabis for conditions not explicitly covered in the law. Sherer, for example, suffers from a neurological disorder that causes painful spasms. She says doctors like hers won’t even try to recommend it for fear of being on a list.
“My physician didn’t want to even try,” Sherer told the Board of Health. “It’s not listed. She doesn’t want to get put on a list for no reason if I’m not even going to qualify.”
The Department has said they will audit any doctors who write more than 250 recommendations in a year. So far, only 62 physicians have requested the forms required for a medical marijuana reccomendation.
Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn, who runs the Takoma Wellness Center, says that physicians in the area also need to be educated on medical cannabis.
“We believe that far too few D.C. physicians understand the benefits of medical marijuana,” Kahn told the Washington Times this week.
By comparison, Colorado has about 109,620 medical marijuana patients or about 2.11 percent of the population.