Drug Law

Medical Marijuana on its Way to Washington, D.C.

| by Marijuana Policy Project

WASHINGTON -- According to District of Columbia Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s medical marijuana law cleared a mandatory 30-day Congressional review period Monday night, after Congress declined to take action against a D.C. Council bill that allows the District to license between five and eight medical marijuana dispensaries. Norton made the announcement on Tuesday. The District will join 14 states across the country in having effective medical marijuana laws.

This historic development comes almost 12 years after 69 percent of District voters approved a referendum on medical marijuana in 1998. Congress had blocked the law’s implementation until last year. Now the District Department of Health and Mayor Adrian Fenty are tasked with developing a set of regulations for dispensaries that will be licensed to distribute medical marijuana to qualified patients. Medical marijuana is not fully legal yet, as the new law allows qualified patients to legally possess marijuana only if it comes from a licensed dispensary. 

“After thwarting the will of District voters for more than a decade, Congress is no longer standing in the way of effective relief for D.C. residents who struggle with chronic ailments,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “This moment is a long overdue victory for both D.C. home rule and the wellbeing of District residents whose doctors believe medical marijuana can help ease their pain.”  

Under the bill, patients who are suffering from chronic conditions including HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis, and receive a recommendation from their doctor will be able to obtain safe access to medical marijuana through a system of licensed dispensaries. A task force will be charged with, among other things, recommending additional conditions, such as PTSD or severe, chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions. Unlike the laws in 13 out of 14 medical marijuana states, patients will not be allowed to grow their own medicine, though the task force will also examine the issue of home cultivation. Medical marijuana will be subject to the city’s 6 percent sales tax.