Residents of the District of Columbia have been waiting for medical marijuana since 1998, when their law met with congressional interference after winning the popular vote. The political climate has changed dramatically since then, however, and it appears that the country’s most ill-fated medical marijuana program will finally be taking effect:
A year after the District legalized medical marijuana, nobody is legally growing or selling it. Patients once thought they would be receiving the drug by early 2011, but bureaucratic delays and the city’s caution in implementing its drug law have caused some would-be patients and entrepreneurs to fume.
But things appear to be picking up. District regulators are forging ahead despite a recent Justice Department memo that has worried state medical marijuana program coordinators nationwide, and city officials on Tuesday said dozens of individuals and businesses will be allowed to apply for licenses to operate five dispensaries and 10 cultivation centers.
The city now expects patients to have access to medicinal marijuana, which advocates say can relieve pain and stimulate appetite, by May 2012. [Washington Post]
Events in the Nation’s Capital are of particular interest to industry participants around the country. Although D.C. is a small market compared to other medical marijuana states, it has the potential to set a strong example and help to educate the nation’s most powerful political leaders about what a responsible medical marijuana program looks like. A successful program in Washington, D.C. could do a great deal to legitimize the medical marijuana industry at the national level.