Medical Cannabis Dispensaries Are Coming to The Nation’s Capitol

[Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from this week’s forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML’s media advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up for NORML’s free e-zine here.]

Members of Congress have declined to overrule legislation passed by the D.C. Council in May authorizing the establishment of regulated medical marijuana dispensaries in the District of Columbia.

Congressional lawmakers had up to 30 working days to reject the law. That review period officially ended Monday evening.

In June, a pair of Republican House members, Reps. Jason Chaffetz (Utah) and Jim Jordan (Ohio) introduced legislation to overturn D.C.’s medical marijuana law, stating, “Marijuana is a psychotropic drug classified under Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act as having ‘high potential for abuse,’ ‘no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,’ and a ‘lack of accepted safety for use of the drug…under medical supervision.’ While certain of these principles may be open to significant debate within segments of the medical community, and among pro-legalization/decriminalization groups, [we are] opposed to re-classification and decriminalization efforts.”

Their effort failed to gain any significant support in Congress.

Under the new law, D.C. Health Department officials will oversee the creation of as many as eight facilities to dispense medical cannabis to authorized patients. Medical dispensaries would be limited to growing no more than 95 plants on site at any one time.

Both non-profit and for-profit organizations will be eligible to operate the dispensaries.

Qualifying D.C. patients will be able to obtain medical cannabis at these facilities, but will not be permitted under the law to grow their own medicine.

A separate provision enacted as part of the 2011 D.C. budget calls for the retail sales of medical cannabis to be subject to the District’s six percent sales tax rate. Low-income will be allowed to purchase medical marijuana at a greatly reduced cost under the plan.

It will likely be several months before Health officials begin accepting applications from the public to operate the City’s medical marijuana production and distribution centers.

District lawmakers said that the newly enacted legislation implements key components of Initiative 59 — a 1998 DC ballot measure that garnered 69 percent of the vote. Until this year D.C. city lawmakers had been barred from instituting the measure because of a Congressional ban on the issue. Congress finally lifted the ban in 2009.

34 thoughts

  1. those to republican crimnals should be drug from thier beds and hung in the tallest trees in wasington .for violating our rights to vote on how we want to be goverened .how can the people respect the law when scum like these two do not .

  2. Didn’t they also go on record saying that they moved marijuana to schedule 3 also, or am i just misinformed?

    [Paul Armentano responds: The marijuana plant, and all of its active compounds, remain categorized under the federal CSA as a Sched I drug. Only synthetic THC, sold commercially as Marinol, is categorized as a Schedule III substance.]

  3. I think this is a BIG deal. I am not sure what all it means, or will lead to, but people are going to be smoking cannabis legally in our nation’s capitol. Obama said that his administration would not be going after medical patients. My understanding is that the DEA still has been going after dispenseries. Well, right in their faces, they will be able to see how they are taking medicine away from patients by doing so. I hope this snowballs into something bigger.

    I have always said even when as a child that smoked, I would not condone someone to start, as I would not drinking. However, growing up poor in ghettos, it was all around me. I think God put everything here for a reason. Cannabis for example helped me get through those tough times with my disabilities, even as a child with both mental and physical challanges. One of my parents was a drug addict, and to cope with family and being preyed on at school, I could smoke to take my mind away. I would much rather not have needed that option, let me tell you. But now even though I still struggle with pain from the rod in my back with the spinal fusion and the since dislocated shoulder, I no longer smoke. (I have had to open heart surgeries, the first of which at 2 y/o led to the spine surgery eventually allowing my shoulder to fall out of place.)

    Why do I no longer smoke cannabis? Because like the man on T.V against legalization said, it could have anything in it, including bug spray. Or maybe even worse formaldehyde. I could go to jail because it is illegal. I could forfeight my right to vote and carry a firearm to protect myself, when I obviously couldn’t hardly “fight” my way out of much more than a paper bag, much less an attacker. It is so depressing, watching people you knew from the neighborhood get shot over a dime ($10) bag of cannibus. All because we’re not allowed to grow something relatively harmless ourselves, without me risking jailtime in my vernable state.

    Forget medical marijuana, forget even calling cannabis marijuana, the psychological warfare name of it’s (excuse me, I mean everyone else but themselves) enemies. I won’t be happy until cannabis is allowed to be produced, sold, and consumed on a level with all other goods of it’s realistic nature. I want to grow a plant carefree, other than am I taking care of it right. That way I can enjoy living, while I am curbing the pain that I live with everyday, emotionally and physically.

    Life may be ridiculous at times, but this is a no-brainer issue to me. Anything, even water can be bad for you, but would you fill in the well to dehydrate your enemy, if it meant you would risk it as well? Oh you don’t want cannabis, you just want us all to go to jail (school for criminals) and keep the police industry preoccupied. Hmmph. Anyone who disagress with me, please feel free to email me at I will explain easily why illegalization is merely a device that holds us ALL down, nonsmokers included. What else could explain this circus we have in America?

    — Villein

  4. “Qualifying D.C. patients will be able to obtain medical cannabis at these facilities, but will not be permitted under the law to grow their own medicine.”


  5. So D.C. has med mj, now dispensaries are coming and the majority of the nation has neither? Hmmm I guess this is good for the majority then hey? Reschedule cannabis, its a god given herb. FREE THE WEED

  6. 70% percent of New Yorkers are waitin too. what about article coverage on new york ?

  7. The best part is the fact that Mr Jordan and Mr Chaffetz could NOT muster enough support for their idiotic counter effort is fizzeling. It is time to re-classify from a schedule 1 to a schedule 3 substance.

  8. This is great news. Having lost my wife here in FL last month to cancer I am super-sensitive to political intransigience on this important topic. That said it couples nicely with the historic recent news that NORML seems afraid to publish or comment on, wherin the VA will now support Medical Marijuana in states which have made it legal. I know here in America’s largest retirement community, The Villages Fl., lots of formerly diehard anti-MM consevatives are radically rethinking their position as this VA action has extended a veneer of legitimacy to the MM movement.

  9. Today, the City Council will consider lifting a smoking ban at San Lorenzo Park for five hours Sept. 25 to allow authorized pot users to medicate inside open-air tents designed to create privacy. The item is on the council’s consent agenda, indicating that it may not be as controversial as in years past.

    “For the city, it’s a matter of course,” Mayor Mike Rotkin said.

    The event will run from noon to 5 p.m. Admission to the event is free and open to the public, but if the council OKs temporarily lifting the ban, organizers will allow smoking marijuana only in a separate tent. Medical marijuana identification will be required.

    Last year, an oversight kept the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana’s annual request for a smoking exemption from landing on a council agenda in time for the event. Instead, the group put its tent on county property near the usual site. Police issued two citations for smoking on park property but otherwise applauded WAMM for holding the event in a responsible manner.

    In 2008, a philosophical divide on the council nearly kept marijuana users from legally participating. Three council members supported lifting the smoking ban but three others were opposed. The tie couldn’t be broken that night because a seventh council member was absent, but a compromise proposed two weeks later called for lifting the ban only for the tented area.

    This year’s measure calls for lifting the smoking ban in the entire park, but urges the organizers “to designate a specific enclosed location for medical marijuana treatment.”

    Councilman Don Lane said he supports the measure because WAMM has acted responsibly in hosting previous events. “They have a good reason for wanting to allow it in just this one instance,” Lane said.

    Valerie Corral, co-founder of WAMM, said volunteers will monitor the park, asking people who are smoking marijuana to show their medical authorization cards so the event doesn’t “turn into hemp-fest.”

    “It’s just really is to keep the focus on the justices that have been met in our own community and on the state level,” Corral said. “We’re bringing awareness to an ongoing issue, marijuana as medicine, and the kind of marginalization that still occurs for people who are seriously ill.”

    The past year has seen a lot of movement on the medicinal marijuana front.

    In January, WAMM suspended a lawsuit against the federal government on the condition that the Drug Enforcement Agency respect state medical marijuana rules. The DEA raided WAMM’s garden and arrested Corral and her husband, Mike, during a 2002 raid, but the Obama administration announced in October that it would stop prosecuting patients or caregivers in states with medical marijuana provisions. California voters approved medical marijuana in 1996.

    Also this year, over the pleas of patients to expand options, the City Council limited medical pot dispensaries in Santa Cruz to the two operating in the Harvey West area. However, the council now allows the pot shops to open seven days a week and grow more of their own supply in-house.

  10. Hey , USA , it’s about time you caught up with California ,

    Here’s a sure sign that marijuana dispensaries are on their way to becoming big business: On July 13 the city council of Berkeley, Calif., asked voters to approve a 2.5 percent tax on the city’s marijuana outlets, three of which grossed a total of $19 million last year, all cash. “This is huge,” says Mayor Tom Bates. The tax will not only help close a $16.2 million budget gap, but it also makes sure that as the sale of pot goes mass market, the local community benefits, not outside business interests, Bates says. “We don’t want to have Philip Morris coming in here, sucking up all the money.”

    Taxing pot sales is a growing trend across the nation as fiscally challenged cities eye the public’s budding acceptance of marijuana use. Denver has generated $1.2 million since December, when the city began collecting sales taxes from its 256 dispensaries. On June 15, Washington, D.C., approved a 6 percent tax on what will eventually be five dispensaries.

  11. This is great news this takes place anywhere!!!I live in Texas wish it would pass here they will toss you in the slammer for a seed on your floor.Anyways congrats to folks up in DC anyone else in Texas would love to hear from you.

  12. Adult American citizens groveling at the feet of their masters to have a tiny pittance of their God given, Constitutionally guaranteed inalienable rights be conditionally returned to some of them by an increasingly illegitimate, oppressive police state government. How pathetic. I wonder if there is an American patriot left capable of even imagining what it would be like to live in a free country.

  13. Off topic, but if you don’t already know you might find this interesting. The VA will now allow medical marijuana patients to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal. I have to wonder what is keeping cannabis in schedule 1? It’s pretty obvious that the fed is admitting that cannabis HAS medical value. To verify this statement just type in “VA allows medical marijuana use” in your search window.

    [Paul Armentano responds: NORML covered this story in depth last week here:

  14. This is the best news i have heard in a long time. now its time to let the domino’s fall

  15. With such restrictions on this new law it would mean that the DEA will be on their ass no matter how legal the Dispensaries comply. In fact they will bust them anyway. DEA doesn’t need any proof because they have the “Control Act of 1970”.

  16. Jim Webb’s attempt to reform our legal system has passed another hurdle. Please send him a big thank you as he may actually bring some recognizable form of justice to this country. It is good to know that some of our elected officials are starting to listen and take action to give us our personal freedoms back. I hope they succeed before the beginning of the next revolution.

    [Paul Armentano responds: Jed is correct. The House version of Jim Webb’s has now been passed. Please urge the Senate to do likewise by going here:

  17. Is Obama slowing changing drug policy in a way that he can’t be connected to it? Is he quietly moving the country towards lifting prohibition? Publicly he says he doesn’t think legalizing cannabis is a good idea. Privately I think he knows prohibition needs to go. Is this change in policy in Washington his doing? I hope so. He could single handedly change our world. If the USA lifts prohibition the rest of the world would follow.

  18. This is great news. It’s another step forward in the right direction. The new motto of the states should be “If Washington does it, we can too!”

  19. How cool! Now they get to see how great mmj is for themselves. I’m just tickled pink.

  20. Civil Obedience

    This highly contested court case involving Arizona’s right to enforce its own immigration policy( I liked the decision made by the courts) may set a precedent.

    How can this federal government allow states to write their own laws that are different than federal law? How can this government say marijuana is illegal unless 50.1% of your state says it is not illegal? One state there is no penalty for smoking pot to help prevent ulcers another state it is illegal and worth a little jail time.

    If states can rewrite our federal laws about marijuana why not immigration? Why not trade agreements? Why not allow other countries to build a base in a state that needs a little extra cash flow?

    How can this federal government spend money to eradicate marijuana from the face of this Earth and hear about a large indoor grow facility approved by the Oakland city council? Lets spend money flying helicopters over our national forests looking for it or just bust that huge warehouse opening tomorrow.

    The federal government lists marijuana as an addictive drug with no medical benefits at all. The department of Veterans Affairs will allow patients who test positive for marijuana to still recieve other medication if they are gettin “Medical Marijuana” from a Doctor in a state that allows Medical Marijuana(rewritin federal drug laws?). How is it possible that one person should not get in trouble if they test positive on a piss test but it is OK for me to lose my job?

  21. I don’t know if you guys have reported this yet, but the federal VA hospitals have changed their policy to no longer disqualify veterans who use medical marijuana in states where it is permitted.

  22. Federals Tax Up to 90%, Taking YOU for Cow. Now Feds Are allowing YOU to become As Conscious as Cow. People Will Use Medicinal Marihuana Until Can Consume NO More. In Great Enough Strength, Over FEW Weeks, Users Forget To Crap. Entire Home Falls apart, in Cleanliness Sense.

    Been 7 Long years to legalize Enactment, Yet Traditional effect is Brauns will declare YOU Hypochondriatic, Arange Your Death & Confiscate Your Properties, Over & Over. People Are Stupid As SHIT on Medical Marihuana.

    So Hurraye, 7 Years Finalized, now keith won’t even FB Here.


  23. This is great news for DC and the rest of the country. Hopefully PA will wise up and legalize medical marijuana. People in DC that need medical pot should be able to grow their own as we all should.

  24. these daze about as easy to get a remark coherent or otherwise out of the dea as the kgb prior to the soviet system collapse. rooskies r us.

    what will the dea do when some of its staffers start blowin summa dat certified d.c. med mj in the wind and on the job?

    never trust a stoner

    reefa madness iz wot o lawdie

  25. Hello. President will want medical cannabis seems like a way we may begin new legality after Green Cross. The ideal with National Legality was NORML map (found at State by State) [after choosing your state on, hyperlink ~ State by State] the Federal Legality was Washington D.C. may determine the legal refer all states with Federal Support.. when Mandatory Minimum was the National Legal setting after Green Cross (medical cannabis) became legal, we did not have a long term drug offense with common crimes .. nationwide. Now Conditional Release will be listed at the Federal Level (a payment showing crime may be taken off record first offense with a fee to the court). Anyway, with the change of Federal basis, it seems like a new legality will be wanted other than 1 state a year medical cannabis. Diane Feinstein with State of California did have some reason with her seemingly ‘closed eyes’ and thought statement on TV today (C-SPAN) she did not agree with ‘marijuana legalization’ with my continued report (my opinion) marijuana was not the legal phrase for cannabis legality.. marijuana industry on the West Coast, Oakland, and new cannabis education provider wanted at the State of Rhode Island.. President will be at his own whim determining whether he wants medical cannabis dispensaries which have become a more for profit venture including less organic and more high power THC similar buds with the want to begin more of a common end to common Green Cross and offer new ideas such as Green Smoke. Cannabis I am in favor about the role allowing a better leader begin better ideal legal refer cannabis manna pot. Marijuana if you look closely will be the reason opposition takes the word itself and gives it a ‘nay’. Support cannabis industry and cannabis education.. Thanks. Bryan _\|/_ / OK

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