Bill Piper at 202-669-6430 or Tony Newman at 646-335-5384
A law allowing qualified patients to possess and use marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation in the nation’s capital took effect last night. The law, passed unanimously by the Washington, DC District Council in May, went through a congressional review period that ended last night. The DC Public Health Department will now begin issuing regulations to implement the law and the city will begin taking applications from organizations to establish and operate five to eight medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the city.
“DC Councilmembers and members of Congress should be commended for providing relief to cancer, HIV/AIDS and other patients who need medical marijuana,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Now we need to make sure that everyone who needs the medicine gets it and that federal law enforcement doesn’t undermine the process.”
In 1998, DC residents voted overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana for medical use – 69 percent to 31 percent, still the largest margin in any jurisdiction to legalize medical marijuana. Unfortunately, the Republican-controlled Congress at the time passed a spending rider prohibiting the DC from implementing the law. Last year the Democratic-controlled Congress repealed that provision, setting the stage for DC to finally implement medical marijuana. The medical marijuana law the DC Council passed was different from the law DC voters approved in 1998 and many advocates say it will leave many patients without the medicine they need.
“Providing marijuana to sick patients in DC is a major step forward, but this law has some faults that will have to be fixed over time,” said Piper. “By not allowing patients to grow their own medicine, the DC law leaves patients at the mercy of medical marijuana dispensaries and the U.S. Justice Department – who could shut down those dispensaries.”