The District's first facilities for selling medical marijuana are expected to open next month after a long struggle over how and where the drug should be dispensed.
The District passed a medical marijuana law in 1998, but Congress prevented the law from moving forward until 2009. Since then, marijuana cultivators and dispensaries have been waiting on regulations and approval.
Vanessa West, general manager for Metropolitan Wellness Center at 409 Eighth St. SE, said the facility pushed back its opening date to mid-April because it is waiting for a grower to produce marijuana to sell.
It is one of three businesses poised to begin accepting patients next month; the other two are Center City Care at 1334 North Capitol St. NW and Takoma Wellness Center at 6925 Blair Road NW.
"We are 100 percent ready and awaiting a final inspection from the Department of Health. We expect that to happen any day now," Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn, co-owner of Takoma Wellness Center, said in an email.
Only patients with qualifying medical conditions, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis, or medical treatments such as chemotherapy, are eligible to receive a written recommendation for medical marijuana from a doctor in D.C. Patients will be allowed to purchase 2 ounces of marijuana per month.
"D.C.'s system is one of the most strict in the nation. Everything from cultivation to security is tightly regulated at these facilities," said Morgan Fox, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. He said he did not expect much federal interference in the program even though marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
The D.C. Council is considering two measures that would limit the number of dispensaries in a single ward and keep marijuana cultivation centers away from the city's retail priority areas.
"Despite our vociferous objections, we were dumped upon, and the dumping upon Ward 5 has to stop," Kathy Henderson, Advisory Neighborhood Commission chairman for Ward 5D, testified Wednesday. "There are other viable treatment protocols for citizens that are suffering."