Mayor Gray to Issue Medical Marijuana Regulations for D.C.

| by Marijuana Policy Project

Rules and Regulations To Be Issued And Take Effect on April 15

WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 12 years after District voters overwhelmingly passed a medical marijuana ballot initiative, seriously ill residents of the District of Columbia will finally be able to begin using marijuana to treat certain serious medical conditions.

Wednesday, Mayor Vincent Gray announced that he has approved the final regulations governing the licensing, distribution, and use of medical marijuana within the District. The full regulations will be published officially on April 15. The City Council has 30 days to review the regulations, but they will go into effect immediately on that date.

Once the final regulations are published, the Department of Health will begin taking applications from individuals or organizations hoping to open one of five medical marijuana dispensaries and 10 cultivation centers. These applications will be evaluated using an objective, scored system based on how well they meet the criteria set forth in the regulations, and will be reviewed by a panel that includes members of the Department of Health, Metro Police, and other agencies tasked with oversight. Seriously ill D.C. residents will also be able to begin filing their applications for medical marijuana licenses.

“It’s been a long wait, but I’m glad that the thousands of District residents who might benefit from this program can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dan Riffle, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. “Now the work begins in selecting the most qualified individuals to grow and dispense marijuana, and ensuring our nation’s capital sets another example of how carefully crafted medical marijuana programs can protect seriously ill patients in a safe, responsible, and effective manner.”

Patients that would qualify for the program are looking forward to starting the application process, but are wary that the regulations do not go far enough to protect patients. Theresa Skipper, an HIV patient from the District who has used marijuana to treat her condition, said, "I'm glad the mayor is finally getting around to signing this into law. Patients like me have waited long enough for legal access to our medicine, and knowing that we won't have to wait much longer is a huge relief to all of us. I just want to follow the rules and try to live a normal life, and this is an important step, but we need to continue working to protect the rights of patients under this system."

The regulations are going into effect at a time when the legislature in neighboring Maryland is considering adding additional legal protections for seriously ill individuals who use marijuana for medical purposes. The Maryland Senate passed S.B. 308 on March 24 to create a study panel to focus on how medical marijuana might work in that state, as well as to expand the existing affirmative defense options.