The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Dan Riffle: 202-905-2026 or;
Mike Meno: 202-905-2030 or 443-927-6400

D.C. Unveils Draft Medical Marijuana Regulations

Mayor’s Order Stalls Implementation Until January 2011, Advocates Say Delays Come at Cost to Patients


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."

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is the number one organization in the U.S. legalizing cannabis. We passed 13 medical cannabis laws in the past 15 years, and we ran winning campaigns in eight of the 11 legalization states. No organization in the movement has changed as many cannabis laws, impacted as many patients and consumers, created as many new markets, or done more to end cannabis prohibition in the U.S. than MPP.