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Flawed: Washington D.C. Drafts Medical Marijuana Regulations

WASHINGTON — According to a series of proposed regulations released today by Mayor Adrian Fenty and the City Administrator, various agencies tasked with overseeing the District’s recently approved medical marijuana law will not have the authority to begin licensing providers or accepting patient applications until January 1, 2011.

That means patients suffering from conditions such as cancer and HIV/AIDS will be unnecessarily forced to wait even longer for relief. The District still needs to consider and license potential applicants to manage medical marijuana dispensaries before patients can legally obtain medical marijuana to alleviate their symptoms. Under the District’s law, qualified patients will only be allowed to legally use marijuana that comes from a licensed dispensary.

“It was 1998 when District residents overwhelmingly approved Initiative 59, and the District Council has been considering this legislation since February, so there’s no reason for the mayor’s office to be dragging its feet,” said Dan Riffle, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. “Patients in the District who could benefit from medical marijuana have already had to wait 12 years for this law. Why should they be needlessly forced to wait another five months?”

Nearly 70 percent of District voters passed a referendum on medical marijuana in 1998, but Congress blocked its implementation until this past year. The D.C. Council approved an amended initiative in May, and last month Congress declined to take action to block the bill.

“The proposed regulations released today are detailed and comprehensive, but there are several issues that we hope are addressed before they are finalized,” Riffle said. “For example, the draft regulations call for applications from prospective dispensary or cultivation center owners to be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis, which could lead to the first applicants being awarded licenses, rather than the best applicants. Also, the lack of a competitive, scored application process—such as those utilized in Maine and other medical marijuana jurisdictions—raises questions of transparency and fairness. However, patients will benefit from the regulatory prohibition on the use of pesticides or contaminants, and the detailed packaging and labeling requirements for medical marijuana products.”


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