Huffpost DC

D.C. Medical Marijuana Legalized, But Patients Still Await Doctor-Recommend Pot

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DC MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARY DELAYS
Three years after the D.C. Council approved marijuana for medical use, not a single dispensary has opened its doors to patients. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) | AP

WASHINGTON -- The owner of the Takoma Wellness Center, former Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn, told The Huffington Post in May that he hoped his D.C. medical marijuana dispensary would open to customers after Memorial Day weekend.

This after telling NBC4 Washington in April that he hoped to open late that month or in early May.

Nearby Capital City Care, meanwhile, once estimated an April debut.

These two medical marijuana dispensaries have been approved by the city and are ready to open. Three cultivation centers are also raring to go. But the opening for each has continually been pushed back.

The hitch? The D.C. Department of Health didn't give doctors the authority to recommend medical marijuana to patients until recently, according to a department spokeswoman. And the applications potential patients must file with the city for a marijuana card won't be available until mid-June, said Najma Roberts, a Department of Health spokeswoman.

District residents approved medical marijuana by referendum in 1998. Twelve years later, the D.C. Council approved medical marijuana, finally moving forward with regulations that would guide the city. But estimates for the opening of dispensaries has continually been pushed back.

Dan Riffle, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Huffington Post in May 2012 that dispensaries would likely be open and patients able to purchase marijuana by the end of 2012.

So far, not a single door has been opened to patients.

"I don't want to over-politicize this, but my general feeling is there just has been molasses poured over the government -- it's not just this," D.C. Councilman and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) told the Examiner.

A spokesman for the Department of Health told the Washington Examiner that dispensaries would finally be able to open their doors in mid-June.

Scott Morgan, the director of Capital City Care, says he's hopeful that the health department's newest estimate is accurate.

"Hopefully, the first medical marijuana cards will be issued this month," Morgan told HuffPost in an email. "And if so, we'll be opening our doors right away when that happens."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that the D.C. Department of Health had not yet authorized doctors to begin recommending medical marijuana to patients. The article has been updated to indicate that it has, with additional comment from a Health Department spokeswoman saying the city has not yet made available the applications for patients seeking a medical marijuana card.

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