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Posted at 05:53 PM ET, 01/12/2012

Vincent Orange proposes capping D.C. marijuana sites


The Medicinal Marijuana Co. of America checks out its prospective Ward 5 digs, on New York Avenue NE. (Michael S. Williamson - THE WASHINGTON POST)
Updated, 5:45 p.m.: Well, Vincent Orange said he’d “fill the leadership void” in Ward 5 during the months it will go without a D.C. Council member. His void-filling has wasted no time.

Orange informed his colleagues today that he’s proposing an emergency bill that will place limits on the number of medical marijuana facilities [Update: and strip clubs!] that can go in any particular ward. He would like a vote as soon as next Tuesday.

Under the draft bill circulated Thursday by Orange, only five marijuana cultivation centers could be permitted in any single ward. As for dispensaries, where medical pot would actually be retailed, Orange aims to limit those to only two per ward. Also, if a ward has five or more cultivation centers, no dispensary could locate there.

This is of particular interest to Ward 5, where most marijuana entrepreneurs are looking to open up their facilities — as documented by DCist and the Washington Times. Orange represented the ward from 1999 to 2007.

Former council member Harry Thomas Jr. had pondered a similar bill late last year, but, as it turned out, he had other matters to attend to.

Many Ward 5ers — including several who spoke at an Orange-hosted meeting Monday — aren’t too jazzed about the prospect of legalized drug facilities, as they’re already quite annoyed about the concentration of strip clubs and other unsavory businesses in the ward. But there’s a reason for that: Zoning restrictions keep many of those businesses from locating elsewhere in the city.

Ward 5, with its relative surfeit of industrially zoned land and relative deficit of schools and other facilities that complicate the location of said unsavory businesses, just happens to be the main place these folks can legally go.

There is nothing in the Orange bill that would address that problem, meaning the bill could be a de facto cap on the number of medical marijuana facilities above and beyond the caps contemplated in Health Department regulations (10 cultivation centers and five dispensaries).

Update, 5:45 p.m..: Orange said he’s not stopping with marijuana facilities; he’s also aiming to cap the number of “strip clubs, topless bars, gentlemen’s clubs, or adult entertainment establishments” in a separate piece of legislation.

“I promised the Ward 5 leadership I was going to get this done,” he said.

A West Virginia Avenue NW establishment, Club AKA 55, has declared its intention to feature nude dancing, and Orange says he wants to nip the issue in the bud, as it were. “If you’re going to have a discussion on the cultivation centers and dispensaries, you might as well have a discussion on strip clubs as well,” he said.

Regarding the marijuana facilities, Orange said he’s hoping his colleagues “would see this oversaturation is unfair.” For emergency legislation to pass, Orange needs nine votes out of 12.

Asked whether he intends to address the zoning restrictions that are most responsible for said “oversaturation,” Orange said, “that may be the product that comes out of this legislation.

“If it’s still determined 10 cultivation centers are needed,” he said, “maybe someone will present legislation to relax zoning regulations.”

What about Orange himself? “Not at this point,” he said.

By  |  05:53 PM ET, 01/12/2012

 
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