Washington DC: City Council Gives Final Approval For Marijuana Dispensary Measure

Washington, DC: Members of the DC City Council gave final approval on Tuesday to legislation authorizing the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries in the District of Columbia. The Council had given preliminary approval to the measure in April.

Tuesday’s City Council vote was unanimous.

The legislation (B 18-622) calls on DC Health Department officials to oversee the creation of up to five 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.

Under an amendment approved by the Council this week, patients would likely be able to obtain up to four ounces of dispensary-provided marijuana per month, but would not be permitted to privately cultivate their own supply. Low-income patients will be allowed to purchase medical marijuana at a greatly reduced cost under the plan.

The amended bill now goes to Mayor Adrian Fenty for his signature.

Once approved, Congress has 30 working days to either approve or reject the measure. Congress holds similar veto power over all laws passed by the Council. The Act seeks to implement components of Initiative 59 – a 1998 DC ballot measure that garnered 69 percent of the vote. However, until this year DC city lawmakers have been barred from instituting the measure because of a Congressional ban on the issue. Congress lifted its ban late last year.

District officials contend that the restrictions are necessary to avoid having Congressional lawmakers overturn the measure.

Last month, lawmakers in Maine approved legislation to allow for the creation of state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries. Similar legislation has also been approved in New Jersey, New Mexico, and Rhode Island.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel, at (202) 483-5500.