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Mayor Will Pick Board to Oversee D.C. Medical Marijuana Program

Daily Dose 2010-11-18 0 comments

By Freeman Klopott, posted in the Washington Examiner

Mayor to pick four-member board.

A four-member, mayor-appointed board will oversee the District’s medical marijuana program when the heavily regulated system rolls out sometime next year.

The mayor-appointed board is a key change in the latest set of regulations released by the city, which took the power of overseeing the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana away from the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. The changes were made after a 45-day public input period. They also include new measures for how the city will chose who can operate medical marijuana facilities.

The new regulations, however, do not increase the number of ailments for which doctors can prescribe marijuana in the District. Only patients suffering from HIV, AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis can get a prescription.

The Marijuana Policy Project, which submitted a 12-page proposal for new rules after the initial regulations were introduced in August, said it had hoped more illnesses would have been covered.

“A lot of folks with chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, and other medical problems, could really benefit from marijuana,” MPP legislative analyst Dan Riffle told The Washington Examiner. Including chronic pain and PTSD would be particularly important in a place like the District, where many wounded soldiers come for rehabilitation, he said. The Department of Veterans Affairs recently changed its policy to allow veterans to continue to receive medical care even if they test positive for marijuana.

“The District should show more compassion for our soldiers,” Riffle said.

The city is allowing for five dispensaries and 10 growing facilities in its tightly controlled system. Patients can receive up to 2 ounces in a 30-day period and cultivation centers can only grow up to 95 plants — five less than the 100 needed to kick in a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence under federal law.

The original regulations said the city would determine who would operate the dispensaries and growing centers on a first-come, first-served basis. The new regulations say they will be chosen on a point system. Applicants will be graded on a 200-point scale, earning points for having a good security plan and providing education materials. The four-member, mayor-appointed board will review the applications.

But regardless of the local laws, medical marijuana still violates federal law, said former U.S. Attorney for D.C. Joe diGenova.

“The program is illegal,” he said.