D.C. Medical Marijuana Law Advances Toward Implementation with New Revised RegulationsAdvocates claim partial victory, look forward to working with Mayor-elect Gray on meeting patients' needs
Washington, DC -- Patient advocates declared a partial victory
Friday as the City Administrator published a revised set of rules
and regulations, moving the district's medical marijuana program closer
to implementation. The most significant change in the revised
regulations, according to advocates, dumps the Alcoholic Beverage
Regulation Administration (ABRA), replacing it with a more well-suited,
four-member board appointed by the Mayor. Advocates remain concerned,
however, about other provisions in the proposed regulations, such as
the prohibition on personal patient cultivation, a right explicitly
defined in the original voter-approved initiative.
"We look forward to working with Mayor-elect Vincent Gray to establish a production and distribution licensing board made up of carefully selected experts and patients," said Caren Woodson, Director of Government Affairs with Americans for Safe Access, the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group. "We will also seek approval and implementation of the regulations as soon as humanly possible."
District patients were denied legal protection and access to medical marijuana after Congress banned Initiative 59, the "Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative," after it was passed by 69 percent of voters in 1998. The ban was finally lifted last year, which began the implementation process.
Advocates were also pleased by other changes in the recently published regulations, including enhanced privacy protections for patients and the adoption of a merit-based licensing system for the production and distribution of medical marijuana, rather than the first-come, first-served approach in the initial proposal. A points system will now be used to assess how applicants will run their operations, favoring such factors as environmental sustainability and local ownership.
The first set of medical marijuana regulations, published in early August, established a surprisingly short list of qualified medical conditions, limited to HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis. The initial regulations also outlined a patient identification card program, a possession limit of two ounces per patient in a 30-day period, a limit on the number of production and distribution facilities, at no more than ten and five, respectively, that are allowed to operate in the city, as well as onerous licensing fees for production and distribution, which remain out of reach for many otherwise qualified individuals and groups.
"We've come a long way and have made significant progress over the past few months," continued Woodson. "Although the regulations aren't perfect, we're ready to put this law into effect." The District Council now has 30 business days to review the revised regulations before sending them to the Mayor.
Second proposed rulemaking to implement DC's medical marijuana law: http://dcregs.dc.gov/Gateway/NoticeHome.aspx?NoticeID=592299
ASA's recommendations to District Council re proposed rules and regulations: http://www.dcpatients.org/ASA_DC_Rulemaking_Comments.pdf
Text of I-59, passed in 1998: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/library/dcelections/races/dcq59.htm#text