D.C. Approves First Medicinal Marijuana Centers

Within a month and a half, residents of the District of Columbia suffering from painful ailments such as glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, cancer, HIV/AIDS and other illnesses could have increased access to a new source of relief. In 2010, the District of Columbia Council voted to establish as many as 10 cultivation centers to grow medicinal marijuana.  Each cultivation center is allowed to grow up to 95 plants at a given time.  Once the plants reach maturity, they will be sent to one of five distribution centers where patients with a prescription from their physician can purchase a specified amount of marijuana. On Friday, the D.C. Health Department announced its approval of six cultivation centers; the next step in the process is for the approved growers to obtain business licenses and building permits from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

The permitting process for the cultivation centers could take less than two weeks, and the Health Department has indicated that approval for the dispensaries should be completed by the beginning of the summer.  It will take approximately 90 days to grow the plants and have them prepared for dispensation; for opponents of medical marijuana in D.C., three months is enough time to make some noise over future sales of medical marijuana.  Concern is growing over the potential proximity of cultivation centers and dispensaries to schools, city parks and community centers, even though the law explicitly states that they must be at least 300 feet away.

Under federal law, it is illegal to grow, purchase or possess marijuana. However, 16 states and D.C. have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana. Federal authorities have recently started cracking down on medicinal marijuana use in different states after various allegations that dispensaries are selling to those without prescriptions or violating building permit requirements.  In the case of the District of Columbia’s 2010 law, federal authorities have declined to publicly sanction the program, which would limit patients to no more than 2 ounces of marijuana a month.

According to Jewish tradition, a physician is obligated to heal the sick. In 2003, the URJ passed a resolution expressing support for federal, state and local laws that would “allow the medicinal use of marijuana” as a method of relief from painful and serious illnesses. Keep checking RACblog for updates on the implementation of medical marijuana legislation in D.C. and in other communities across the country.

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Molly Benoit

About Molly Benoit

Molly Benoit is the RAC Legislative Associate and was a 2011-2012 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. She is from Palm City, FL, and a member of Temple Beit HaYam.


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