Friday, February 19, 2010

Hearing on Medical Marijuana Set for Next Week

The D.C. Council is scheduled to hold a hearing early next week to
discuss legislation that would legalize the use of marijuana for
medicinal uses.

The bill, which was introduced in late January after Congress finally
lifted restrictions that had long prevented a1998 voter initiative from
being enacted, would allow for the creation of five dispensaries where
people with specific ailments and a prescription from their primary care
physician could go to obtain marijuana. Patients would also be allowed
to grow their own marijuana.

Medical marijuana advocates, who feel the proposed legislation is too
restrictive and does not live up to the spirit of the 1998 voter
initiative, are planning on proposing a set of amendments. An early
February memo from Americans for Safe Access, a medical pot advocacy
group, outlines the amendments, which would include doing away with a
rule that would forbid dispensaries from being within 1,000 feet from
schools or youth centers, scrapping a requirement that patients pay fees
to their dispensary, and allowing for the Department of Health to hold
hearings after the first year of the legislation's implementation to
determine whether more than five dispensaries are needed.

The memo also calls for changes so that any physician, not just a
primary one, can prescribe marijuana, and so that patients can designate
up to four individuals, instead of just one, to serve as primary
caregivers who are able to help patients obtain their prescriptions.
Another proposed amendment would do away with the rule prohibiting
anyone with a misdemeanor drug conviction from working at or owning a

The main sponsor of the legislation, Council member David Catania (I-At
Large), has argued that a tightly regulated system would make it more
likely that the legislation would pass congressional muster.

The hearing will take place on Tuesday, February 23 at 2 p.m. Anyone
looking to testify should contact Jennifer Barry of the Health Committee
(jbarry (at) dccouncil (dot) us, (202) 724-8170) by noon on Monday,
February 22.

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