D.C. Medical Marijuana Law Enacted then Temporarily Suspended by District Council

March 02, 2010
Washington, DC -- Initiative 59, known as the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998, completed its 30-day Congressional review period on Friday, placing it that much closer to implementation. However, yesterday, District Council adopted a moratorium, temporarily suspending implementation until regulations can be enacted. Due to a Congressional ban, lifted in December, patients in the District of Columbia have waited more than 11 years for the initiative, which was approved by 69% of District voters, to take effect.

"We're extremely pleased that Congress finally decided to allow the District of Columbia's medical marijuana law to take effect," said Nikolas Schiller from the D.C. chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group, which has formed a new local chapter to provide support for patients and to help craft a sensible regulatory proposal for the District. "We're also anxious to see the District Council quickly establish regulations that will grant voter-approved rights to patients, which have been denied for far too long."

Yesterday's moratorium follows a joint hearing held last month by the District Council's Committee on Health and Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary to address the proposed amendments to Initiative 59. The "Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative Amendment Act of 2010," which will help protect patients and growers from criminal sanctions and establish regulations for much-needed distribution sites around the District, was co-introduced by District Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) and Councilmembers David A. Catania (I-At Large) and Phil Mendelson (D-At Large).

"The District Council appears to be taking seriously the issue of regulating its medical marijuana law," said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. "At the same time, patients still have outstanding issues that must be addressed." Some of the concerns expressed by patients and advocates about the proposed legislation include: allowing only primary care physicians to recommend medical marijuana; limiting patients to a single caregiver; relegating dispensaries to remote areas using onerous location restrictions; placing patients at risk by forcing dispensaries to retain sensitive and privileged information; and saddling patients with unnecessary and excessive fees.

Once the Council adopts regulations, the law will undergo a second 30-day Congressional review period required under the Home Rule Act.

Further Information:
Temporary moratorium passed by D.C. Council yesterday: http://www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us/images/00001/20100219123559.pdf
Proposed D.C. legislation to implement I-59: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/DC_Proposed_Regs.pdf
Text of I-59, passed in 1998: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/library/dcelections/races/dcq59.htm#text

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