February 23, 2010

Washington D.C. Votes on Medical Marijuana Today

February 23, 2010

There’s a big vote today in Washington D.C. that could bring medical marijuana to the District of Columbia. Technically, Initiative 59 was passed in 1998, and since that time, medical marijuana has been legal. However, the feds decided to never fund the administrative process that would create and implement a medical marijuana program. That might change today at 2 p.m. (east coast time) at the John A. Wilson building in D.C., where city councilors will vote whether to move forward on the current proposal.

Council Member David Catania (I) authored the current proposal, which would set up a maximum of five dispensaries across the district. Patients would be limited to purchasing a ‘one month supply’ from one of the designated dispensaries, which would work out to one ounce for most patients, unless they had approval from their primary physician for a larger amount. Also, dispensaries would have to be at least 1,000 feet away from any school or youth center.

The program would be one of the strictest in the nation, which has drawn some criticism. However, one of the original proponents of Initiative 59, Wayne Turner, disagrees. He stated, “It’s a sound proposal that tracks the design and intent of the original initiative by creating a tightly regulated system whereby patients with serious, chronic or debilitating medical conditions can have safe and affordable access to medical marijuana. That’s good, because in recent years we’ve seen what a vague law and lack of regulation can do,” referring to California’s system.

Mr. Turner went on to say, “Yes, the proposal may be too restrictive for some, but Initiative 59 was never about promoting casual or recreational use of marijuana. And the council’s cautious approach is appropriate for another reason: Under the Constitution, Congress retains the authority to overturn D.C. legislation at any time. It would be a grave mistake to unnecessarily provoke further congressional interference by creating a system vulnerable to abuses. The council’s plan represents the best chance to implement medical marijuana and to protect those patients whose quality of life may depend upon this medication of last resort.” If approved, there will be a few months of data gathering, research, and government meetings to determine how implementation will occur, with a final vote expected in May.

This D.C. situation should raise more questions as time goes on. What does this mean for states that have medical marijuana programs? Does this mean that ALL of them will be allowed to have dispensaries as well? Will this begin a process of federal support for medical marijuana? Who will be allowed to own one of these five dispensaries, or if they are government controlled, what will that look like? I guess only time will tell. What do you think about this proposal? Is it too restrictive? What do you think the ramifications will be? The near future is going to be an exciting, yet confusing time!!


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