Last night, February 10, 2011, the District of Columbia Patients’ Cooperative (DCPC) organized a panel to discuss the District of Columbia’s medical cannabis program. The town hall meeting was held at All Souls Unitarian Church and started at 7 p.m.
I attended the meeting hoping to learn more about plans for dispensary locations, security, and possible crime and safety concerns … especially in light of the September, 2010, ANC 1A meeting at which concerns about all of these issues were raised after the Commission was contacted about its opinion of locating a dispensary on Georgia Avenue. These issues were largely absent from last night’s meeting. Rather, the focus of the meeting was primarily on the concerns of patients seeking information on qualifying for cannabis, getting a doctor’s recommendation, and the licensing of cultivation centers or dispensaries.
It seems that the chief obstacle preventing the implementation of medical marijuana is that Mayor Gray has not finalized the draft regulations, which many had anticipated would be done by now. Until this is done, the Board that would run the program can not be created. This tends to leave things a bit up in the air.
To the subject of dispensaries, the following details were shared. A total of 5 are planed for the District. Their locations have not been decided, but DCPC hopes they are distributed throughout the city rather than in close proximity. Ideally, DCPC would have liked 8 dispensaries — one for each Ward — but that isn’t likely anytime soon.
Once the DC program begins, those interested in running a dispensary will have to pay a $5,000 application fee ($200 non-refundable) as well as get a license which will cost $10,000/year. Those interested in operating a dispensary will similarly need a license at a rate of $5,000/year.
Regarding safety, the following information was shared. Each proposed dispensary will go through a rating process, where 25% of the rating will be based on the applicant’s proposed security and 25% will be based on the location. Employees of dispensaries can not be felons or have a drug related misdemeanor on their record. For cultivation centers, when employees are present there must be a minimum of two staff on site, both of whom must have absolutely no record of drug related crimes.
Proponents of medical marijuana also point out that the difference between medicinal and non-medicinal cannabis is the difference between the compounds CBD (which eases pain) and THC (which creates the high) which occur in different quantities depending upon the cultivar. Because of this it was stated that the cannabis used for medicinal purposes is undesirable by those seeking to get high due to its lower THC levels.
The city estimates in its fiscal impact statement that there will be 800 registered patients and 400 registered caregivers the first year. Some feel this estimation is low. The only real certainty I came away from the meeting with is that this issue is sure to come up again, there are still details that need to be decided, and nothing is definitive regarding the location of dispensaries.