Rave Radio: Offline (0/0)
Email: Password:
News (Media Awareness Project) - US DC: Limits On Medical Pot Cause Concern In DC
Title:US DC: Limits On Medical Pot Cause Concern In DC
Published On:2012-01-25
Source:Washington Times (DC)
Fetched On:2012-01-28 06:01:59

Shortages Feared at Cultivation Sites

The District's medical marijuana program is still months away from
sprouting, but some advocates already worry that there won't be enough
cannabis to go around.

Prompting concerns about supply of the drug was a vote Jan. 17 by the
D.C. Council that capped the number of cultivation centers that will
be licensed to grow marijuana at six per ward - an effort to assuage
fears that Ward 5 in Northeast was becoming a dumping ground for
unwanted industries.

With most of the applicants proposing to do business in Ward 5, the
zoning change effectively cut the number of candidates to run
cultivation centers to seven - three fewer than the 10 that D.C. law

Mike Liszewski, policy director for Americans for Safe Access, said
concerns have been raised that the D.C. program, which has a 95-plant
limit per registration, was too conservative to meet the estimated
demand among patients.

"Limiting the number of cultivation sites will only exacerbate that
problem," he said.

City legislators capped the number of plants a cultivation center may
have at any time at 95 to keep it under the 100-plant threshold under
federal law, which mandates a five-year prison sentence for those
convicted of violation.

The limit is indicative of how careful the city has been in rolling
out its program, hoping to avoid the legal stumbles that prompted
federal prosecutors to roll back medical marijuana initiatives in
states across the nation. Applicants to the D.C. program must sign a
legal waiver that says they assume the risk of federal prosecution for
growing or distributing marijuana and cannot hold the city liable for

But sometimes the essence of medical marijuana initiatives - providing
relief to those in pain - is lost in the regulatory shuffle, Mr.
Liszewski said.

"Lawmakers try to balance the lack of clarity from the federal
government with the needs of patients," he said. "The unfortunate
thing is they seem to err on the side of the federal

Montgomery Blair Sibley, an applicant with the Medicinal Marijuana
Company of the District of Columbia, said each cultivation center is
supposed to support about 100 patients, so the number of potential
patients would decrease from 1,000 to 700 if the situation stands. Yet
the city still could meet its goals over time.

"I understood the original plan to be a slow rollout to meet demand,"
Mr. Sibley said.

The D.C. Department of Health, which led the application-scoring
process and sets deadlines for the program, has not announced whether
it plans to change the registration process because of the council's
action. It also did not respond to requests for comment on whether the
supply of marijuana is expected to sync with expected demand from
qualifying patients.

The diminished number of cultivation centers planned is based on the
applications submitted to the health department. Twenty-six of the 28
applicantsto grow medical marijuana in the District proposed a site in
Ward 5. The remaining two sites were on Benning Road in Ward 7 and in
the Anacostia area of Ward 8. The Ward 8 site has not met the criteria
for review by the city's Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, the most
local form of elected government in the District, and it has not been
given the chance to submit a corrected application.

That leaves six centers, at most, in Ward 5 and the proposed site in
Ward 7 that goes by the name Phyto Management.

The city will license up to five applicants who proposed dispensaries
- - sites where the drug is doled out to qualified patients - in
locations across the District, including in Ward 5. Officials are
scheduled to award registrations to cultivation centers and
dispensaries by March 30 and May 4, respectively, although it is
unclear when the operations will begin.

The council's compromise on facilities-per-ward arose when council
member Vincent B. Orange, at-large Democrat, and council Chairman
Kwame R. Brown, a Democrat, took up the issue in an attempt to fill
the leadership gap in Ward 5 left by former council member Harry Thomas Jr.

Thomas had raised concerns about the concentration of marijuana
facilities in his ward - leading to a series of neighborhood meetings
on the topic - before he resigned and pleaded guilty to stealing
public funds and filing false tax returns.

The emergency legislation passed by the council this month also says
any ward that accepts five cultivation centers cannot accept more than
one dispensary.

The provision means that four applicants who proposed a dispensary
site in Ward 5 - Capitol Dispensary, D.C. Alternative Therapy Center,
Eagle Organics and Kahentakon Compassion Center - will vie for one
slot if they meet preliminary specifications.

Roy Kime of Kahentakon is a city resident of 15 years who also
proposed a cultivation center in Ward 5. As others have noted, he said
that zoning regulations and the restrictions of the medical marijuana
program directed most applicants to the ward.

If officials wanted to distribute cultivation across the city, they
should have opened it up to spaces zoned for commercial use as well,
he said.

"We weren't picking on Ward 5," said Mr. Kime, who lives in Ward 2. "I
have a great relationship with the residents of Ivy City."

Mr. Kime said he is not sure whether his cultivation center
application is still in the approval process. It was not among the
initial seven forwarded to the ANCs for review and not on a list of
those who may submit amended applications.

The council's actions could limit his chances on the dispensary side,
Mr. Kime said. "I figured it's people we were competing with anyway."

Mr. Kime does have some criticism for the city.

The city government, he said, should have done more to assist
D.C.-based applicants, much like it does with the Certified Business
Enterprise system in awarding city contracts to D.C. companies and in
employment initiatives that attempt to place city residents in public-
and private-sector jobs around the Beltway.

A District-first approach may have whittled down the field in a more
constructive manner.

"We are so city-focused with so many other important things," he said,
"yet they want other people from other states to come in and grow cannabis."

Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat and chairman of the
Committee on the Judiciary, said Friday that he does not recall any
discussion of District-first provisions in the initial medical
marijuana statute, but noted it is "always nice when it's District
businesses and residents who are favored."
Member Comments
No member comments available...