A full year after Washington DC legalized medical marijuana, no one is growing it, selling it or using it legally. Patients were told that the program would begin by early 2011, but bureaucratic delays and the city’s caution in implementing the program have caused many activists, would-be patients and cannabis business entrepreneurs to have their doubts. But now, it finally seems that the program is moving forward again as District regulators have began discussing the when and how that the program will actually begin.
The city says that patients will have access to medical marijuana by May of 2012. District Department of Health Director Mohammad Akhter asked for the communities patience and explained that it has turned out to be a more complicated process than they first anticipated. He says the delays are to assure that the program is one that will be in the City to stay, and not shut out by the heavy handed federal government that is in, literally, their front yard. City officials said that they are preparing to accept applications for licenses to operate the five dispensaries and 10 cultivation centers that will be allowed by law.
Patients that worked on the campaign to have medical marijuana in the district aren’t too sure. One resident says she is sure they will miss this new deadline of next May, but added that she would be very happy if they did make it. The winning applicants for the five dispensaries will be revealed by the years end. So far, the city has named a six-member panel, consisting of a patient advocate and representatives from five city departments that will review the proposals with commissioners of affected Advisory Neigborhood Commissions over three months before they will award the licenses.
Akhter says that when the program gets implemented, it will be the tightest-controlled program in the US. In the meantime, some potential dispensary owners have given up, after paying deposits on commercial spaces, and hiring employees and legal advisors. It is tough to run a business if you have to pay staff for two years before they ever let you sell a single product.