01/19/2012 02:08 pm ET Updated Mar 20, 2012

D.C. to Make Medical Marijuana Available in Spring 2012

In 1998, 69 percent of the citizens in Washington, D.C. voted to legalize
medical marijuana. But the Republican Congress at that time blocked implementation of the law by withholding funding to implement the program.

In an effort to revive the old law, on May 4, 2010, over a
decade later, the D.C. Council approved amendments to the old law. After a 30-day Congressional review period expired on the amended law, the amended law became
law. With this law, Washington, D.C. joins 16 other states in the nation with laws allowing for the use of marijuana
for medical purposes; an additional 12 states are considering adding similar laws
in support of using the plant for medical treatment. Recent data shows that
over 77 percent of Americans favor laws in support of medical marijuana. 

Under the new D.C. law, D.C. doctors can write medical marijuana prescriptions
for patients who suffer from conditions such as, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS,
cancer, glaucoma, and other serious conditions. One of the biggest promoters of
the use of marijuana for medical treatment is TV personality Montel Williams,
who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis over 13 years ago and uses the plant
for his condition.

Montel Williams has taken his pro marijuana crusade across the country.  He
was guest speaker of former Ward 5 D.C. Council Member Harry Thomas Jr. in November
of last year, where he made his pitch to an audience at Israel Baptist Church in Ward 5. While his personal plight was moving for
some, many Ward 5 residents weren't quick to jump on board with the

The new law in Washington calls for 10 sites that will be authorized to grow the plant (cultivation centers). 
28 applicants applied to compete for one of these 10 sites; nearly all of the
applicants are for sites in Ward 5. The law also calls for five distribution
centers (dispensaries), where people can obtain medical marijuana with a D.C.
doctor's prescription. The public will know on March 2 the 10 sites that
qualify to be cultivation centers, and on March 30 the five dispensaries. By mid
to late spring, the program is expected to be in full operation in the nation's