The District has given one medical marijuana dispensary and one marijuana growing center permission to occupy their buildings, a big step in the arduous process of getting the city’s program operational.
The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs granted the “certificates of occupancy” Tuesday, clearing the way for the cultivation center at 1840 Fenwick St. NE and a dispensary at 1334 North Capitol Ave. NW to undertake final preparations before opening.
The Holistic Remedies dispensary will be allowed to begin growing up to 95 marijuana plants at a time – the maximum allowed under the city’s medical law – once the Department of Health inspects the facility.
The Capital City Care dispensary must get the green light from the Health Department before opening. It will then take at least 60 days for the cultivation center to grow its first crop and distribute it to the dispensary.
Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), chairman of the Health Department, said in a statement the certificates of occupancy “put us at long last at the threshold of an operational medical marijuana infrastructure in the District.”
“Individuals suffering from painful, chronic and life-threatening diseases will soon be able to access the medication they need right here in the District,” Catania said. “While the process has taken longer than anyone would have liked, I am pleased that we now appear to be only a few short months from the existence of a responsible, well-regulated medical marijuana program. “
The D.C. Council authorized medical marijuana in 2009, following up on a 1998 referendum in which voters overwhelmingly supported the idea. But the program has been slow to start up as city officials struggled to craft regulations and find suitable locations for up to 10 cultivation centers.
In March, the Department of Health okayed an initial six companies to grow or supply marijuana. But those companies, one run partially run by talk show host Montel Williams, have been in the process of extensive renovations to their properties. The Health Department expects to grant additional certificates of occupancy in the coming weeks.
At a town hall meeting Tuesday night, medical marijuana activists and Health Department officials were optimistic that the first patients will be receiving the drug by the spring.
Under city regulations, patients suffering from cancer, HIV-AIDS, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma qualify for the program with a doctor’s prescription. Patients will be able to purchase up to 2 ounces of marijuana per month.
But officials stress that medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Patients will have to sign a waiver freeing the District of legal liability should they be arrested by federal authorities.