Washington DC Expands Medical Marijuana Program
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 08/05/2014 in Medical Marijuana Laws
Location: Washington DC | Source: Americans For Safe Access
Washington, D.C – Just last week the Mayor of our nation’s capitol, Mayor Vincent Gray took the bold step of putting District physicians in control of determining which of their patients would be helped by the use of medical marijuana, thus eliminating the District’s previous limiting list of qualifying conditions. It was with minimal attention that Mayor Gray signed B20-0876, officially known as theMedical Marijuana Expansion Emergency Amendment Act of 2014.
The quickly forwarded legislation was unanimously approved by the city council on July 14th and not only eliminates the states list of conditions, which previously made it one of the strictest in the nation, but also allows cultivation centers to now grow up to 500 cannabis plants as compared to the previous 95. Its passage marks one of the greatest battles and victories for medical marijuana advocates this year. In a year where most states who went legal tried to outdo each other for the most restrictive bills, the nation’s capitol seemed to take the opposite approach when handling its own marijuana program.
Washington now joins California and Massachusetts as the only three states that have given the physicians the proper power and authority to establish which patients may qualify. If the trend continues however, states like Pennsylvania and Florida may soon join those ranks as both SB1182 and Amendment 2 contain language that grant physicians similar discretionary powers.
Much of the success seen with the passing of the new legislation is due to the Safe Access D.C. chapter’s tireless work organizing meetings and arranging for patients to testify at hearings which took place over the past 4 days. In addition many of the District’s producers and dispensary owners advocated for expansion of the program.
The bill needed to be passed as “emergency legislation” because D.C. law requires that all permanent laws be approved by Congress. In most instances when the District passes a law it undergoes a 30 or 60 day congressional review period. However, the District may enact short term legislation that can go into effect immediately upon the signature by the mayor. The catch is that the law only stay’s in effect for 90 days. This means that D.C. will have to pass some form of permanent legislation if it wishes to keep its program expanded.
Passage of permanent legislation seems quite promising when the D.C. – council returns from its recess in mid-September. The new legislation comes at an appropriate time as the District Department of Health (DOH) was in the midst of making long-overdue and needed improvements in the Districts administration of their Medical Marijuana Program. As of the beginning of this year the DOH has aimed to streamline the application process for patients and aimed to make it less difficult for physicians to obtain the needed recommendation forms. Additionally they have begun to hold semi-regular public meetings of the board’s advisory committee and improved patient turnaround time when waiting for their registration cards.
Under its current leadership of Director Joxel Garcia and program director Dr. Rikin Mehta, the District’s program is beginning to function in a manner that finally serves patients as it should and was intended. D.C. set the trend for restrictive medical marijuana legislation in 2010, a trend that has unfortunately continued through today. Medical marijuana patients from coast to coast hopes that the District will once again serve as a bellwether and those lawmakers across the country begin to pass physician-controlled, qualifying patient legislation.