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First Medical Marijuana Dispensary Opens in Washington, D.C.
Licensed and regulated business begins providing medical marijuana to patients with serious illnesses in the nation's capital
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The first licensed medical marijuana dispensary in the nation's capital opened Monday, more than 14 years after District voters approved a ballot initiative allowing residents with serious illnesses to access and use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Two additional dispensaries are expected to open soon.
"The District has established a sensibly regulated and tightly controlled system to ensure patients have reliable access to medical marijuana and prevent it from being abused," said Dan Riffle, deputy director of government relations for the Washington D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project. "The establishment of such a model program in Congress’s backyard illustrates the need for marijuana policy reform at the federal level.
"The next step is for Congress to address the banking and tax issues that are preventing medical marijuana businesses from being able to operate as safely and transparently as possible," Riffle said.
Capital City Care, located at 1334 North Capitol Street just blocks from the Capitol Building, received its license from the District of Columbia Department of Health April 23, following a more than two-year rule-making, application, and inspection process. District residents suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, and glaucoma whose doctors recommend medical marijuana can now register with the program. Qualified patients will be allowed access to a single dispensary, which must be specified in the registration form. A full description of the program is available at Medical Marijuana Program | doh.
"Seriously ill District residents whose doctors recommend medical marijuana will now be able to obtain it through safe, regulated businesses just like patients who need any other medication," Riffle said. "The American people recognize the medical value of marijuana, and it is time for the federal government to do the same."
Nearly 70% of District voters approved a ballot initiative to establish a medical marijuana program in 1998, but Congress prevented it from going into effect for more than a decade. In 2010, Congress lifted a budget restriction and allowed the District to implement the law.
Nineteen states allow patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their physicians. In addition, the Illinois Legislature approved similar legislation in May that is now awaiting the governor's signature. State-regulated medical marijuana dispensaries are currently operating in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Rhode Island. They are expected to begin operating this summer in Vermont, and the rule-making process for dispensaries is underway in Connecticut and Massachusetts. In June, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandonval signed a bill into law that will establish a system of state-regulated dispensaries.
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The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana-policy-reform organization, has been responsible for changing most state-level marijuana laws since 2000. For more information, visit http://www.mpp.org.