A Sign of Success in D.C.'s First Legal Medical Marijuana Sales

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July 31, 2013 - By Chloe Judell-HalfPenny

This week, two Washington, D.C. residents became the first patients to legally purchase medical marijuana in the District of Columbia in more than 75 years.  

The sales at Capital City Care mark the culmination of a more than decade-long struggle to implement a medical marijuana program in D.C.  Although an overwhelming 70 percent of D.C. voters approved an initiative in 1998 to allow access to medical marijuana, ongoing legal hurdles have delayed turning this policy into practice for 15 years.

Congress passed legislation that would permit the District of Columbia to create a medical marijuana program in 2009, but establishing a program has required lawmakers to overcome a series of challenges. These have included setting up an effective regulatory system, creating a licensing process for growers and retailers, and developing a form of certification for doctors who can prescribe medical marijuana and patients who are eligible to consume it.  

Despite challenges along the way, yesterday’s sales represent the fruition of many years of a long struggle for safe and legal accessibility to medical marijuana by patients in the District of Columbia.

According to the Washington Post:

D.C. Health Department spokeswoman Najma Roberts said that as of Monday, only nine patients have obtained a city-issued medical marijuana card. About 20 doctors, she said, have requested forms from the city allowing them to recommend cannabis to their patients.

Capital City Care, the first of three planned District dispensaries to secure an operating license, offers four strains of medical cannabis, priced from $380 to $440 an ounce, grown by Northeast-based Holistic Remedies. More varieties will be offered once two other cultivation centers — including Capital City Care’s own — produce their first salable harvest, said Scott Morgan, a spokesman for Capital City Care.

Morgan said he was not aware of any health insurers willing to cover medical marijuana purchases. The prices, he said, reflect the highly regulated nature of the District’s system and the firm’s investment in its dispensary and growing operations.

Senior citizens, veterans and low-income patients are eligible for discounts of 10 to 15 percent, he said.

Of particular note was the seriousness of the Washington Post’s coverage of this milestone. Often, marijuana-related news coverage is rife with stale pot-puns and sophomoric stoner jokes. Medical marijuana advocates have long lamented this wink-wink, snicker-snicker approach to a very serious issue. So it is quite refreshing and encouraging to see the Post give this issue the thoughtfulness it deserves.

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