Medical Marijuana on Georgia Avenue?
According to information shared at the meeting, ANC1A08 Commissioner Cliff Valenti was contacted a few weeks ago by an individual seeking feedback on the appropriateness of a dispensary for medical marijuana located on Lower Georgia Avenue. Most 1A commissioners indicated that they had not been monitoring this issue closely prior to this contact. Valenti additionally indicated that the caller seemed to be feeling out the neighborhood’s response as a result of Takoma Park’s resistance to a dispensary in their community.
There was general agreement and concern from the commissioners that Georgia Avenue was not an appropriate location for a marijuana dispensary, and concern that the current rules proposed for the management of the District’s new medical marijuana program, which will take effect January 1, 2011, weren’t sufficient. Several commissioners also expressed concern over impacts on crime and safety around dispensaries, citing increased crime around dispensaries in Denver, Colorado, and Sacramento, California.
A couple of advocates for medical marijuana spoke in defense of dispensaries, expressing the problems in Denver and Sacramento had more to do with inadequate oversight rather than the dispensaries themselves. One speaker stated that the situation in Oakland, California, would make a better comparison to conditions within the District due to population size, level of poverty, and prevalence of crime. Valenti responded that Oakland’s crime was worse than the District’s and that he wouldn’t use that city as a model for Washington.
While there was a clear division of opinion on the validity of marijuana’s medicinal value, there was a pragmatic acceptance that it will be a reality in the District. Commissioner LaKeisha Thomas did make it clear, however, that it is still Federally illegal.
Where there was strongest agreement among all parties was that the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) was the wrong agency to be given regulatory authority. Since marijuana, in this case, is to be dispensed medicinally, all agreed that the correct agency should be the Department of Health. Giving ABRA oversight tends to make a comparison between marijuana and alcohol, thus emphasizing marijuana’s recreational use.
Responding to an open period for comment, ANC1A will be sending a letter to the Office of the Attorney General with recommendations addressing weaknesses they’ve identified in the DC law regarding oversight of a patient’s caregiver, transportation of marijuana, and locations of dispensaries.
In short, recommendations included the following:
Caregivers: must be registered with the Department of Heath and be recommended by a physician.
Transportation: must be in a sealed container, labeled with patients name and other data, and transported directly from dispensary to patient’s home. Those transporting marijuana must also have a permit to do so.
Location: commissioners are asking that dispensaries not be within 500 feet (not the 300 feet proposed) of schools or recreation centers. Additionally, the commissioners recommend that dispensaries not be within 500 feet of substance abuse treatment centers, halfway houses, and day care centers.Crime, Department of Health, Healthcare comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.