Washington, DC: Members of the DC City Council voted unanimously this week in favor of legislation that seeks to establish medical marijuana dispensaries in the District of Columbia.
Under the proposal (B 18-622), which is expected to receive priol approval from the Council next month, city Health Department officials would regulate up to five facilities to dispense medical cannabis to authorized patients. Medical dispensaries would be limited to growing no more than 95 plants on site at any one time.
Patients would be able to obtain up to two ounces of dispensary-provided marijuana per month, but would not be permitted to privately cultivate their own supply. Low-income patients will be allowed to purchase medical marijuana at a greatly reduced cost under the plan.
The legislation seeks to implement components of Initiative 59, a 1998 DC ballot measure that garnered 69 percent of the vote. However, until this year DC city lawmakers have been barred from instituting the measure because of a Congressional ban on the issue. Congress lifted its ban late last year.
Once approved, Congress has 30 days to either approve or reject the measure.
At a DC City Council hearing in February, NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre testified in favor of the measure, but criticized lawmakers' decision to remove patients' access to home cultivation. "NORML believes that efforts by lawmakers to place undue restrictions on doctors' abilities to recommend medical cannabis, and patients abilities to legally possess amounts that are in accordance with their specific medical needs " regardless of however well-intentioned these efforts by the Council may be " contradict the spirit of 1-59 and should be rejected by this Committee," St. Pierre said.
DC officials contend that the restrictions are necessary to avoid having Congressional lawmakers overturn the measure.
Last week, lawmakers in Maine approved legislation to allow for the creation of state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries. Similar legislation has also been approved in New Jersey, New Mexico, and Rhode Island.