Washington, DC: Qualified District residents this week began legally purchasing cannabis for therapeutic purposes. So far, fewer than a dozen patients are registered participants in the nascent municipal program, which allows qualified persons with a doctor's recommendation and authorization from the DC Department of Health to obtain cannabis from DC-licensed dispensaries.
The District of Columbia joins 20 states that have enacted legislation allowing for the physician-authorized consumption of cannabis, including Illinois - which enacted legislation on Thursday, August 1 to establish a medical marijuana pilot program. More than ten states now license (or are in the process of licensing) producers to legally grow and dispense the plant.
Some 70 percent of District residents initially approved a municipal initiative in 1998 authorizing qualified patients to possess and consume the plant. However, Congress blocked city officials from implementing the voter-approved law until 2009. In 2010, members of the DC City Council amended the 1998 initiative to permit the tightly regulated production and sales of cannabis by licensed facilities. Members of Congress allowed the amended measure to become law without federal inference in July of 2010.
After numerous delays, DC regulators have finally begun authorizing physicians, patients, and dispensaries to begin participating in the city's medical marijuana program. The first District-authorized marijuana sales took place on Tuesday.
Under the DC law, qualified patients must obtain cannabis at a licensed dispensary. They are not permitted to cultivate their own cannabis or possess cannabis from some other supply source. Permitted dispensaries must acquire the cannabis they sell through licensed producers of the plant.
In addition to the District of Columbia, Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey, Maine, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont have licensed medical cannabis dispensaries up and running. (California dispensaries are not licensed by the state.) Similar dispensary outlets are in the process of opening in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Nevada and New Hampshire. Legislation to establish state-licensed dispensaries in Oregon is awaiting action from the Governor.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director, at (202) 483-5500.