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Council approves medical marijuana bill

The D.C. Council gave final approval to legalized medical marijuana today, but only after members agreed to make it easier for qualified patients to obtain larger quantities of the drug.

The bill, which now goes to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), originally restricted chronically ill patients with a doctors' recommendation to no more than two ounces of marijuana in a 30-day period. But the council approved an amendment giving the Fenty administration the authority to set the possession limit at four ounces a month if it decides the need exists.

If, as expected, Fenty signs the bill, Congress will have 30 days to review it before it becomes law.

Under the legislation, the city will set up five to eight dispensaries where patients with chronic illnesses such as HIV/AIDS or cancer can purchase the drugs. Poor patients will be eligible for subsidized marijuana. But patients could not grow their own marijuana.

Before the final vote, council members David Catania (I-At Large) and Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) fought off efforts by council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) to make substantial changes to the legislation.

Graham pushed for an amendment that would have established civil protections so medical marijuana patients and their caregivers could not be fired or kicked out of their apartments because they use the drug.

Catania and Mendelson argued that Graham's proposal would open the door to legalization.

"You can have an airline pilot who could not be fired under the amendment Mr. Graham has offered," Catania said.

Graham countered that Catania's allegation was absurd, saying the amendment was designed to protect medical marijuana users from discrimination.

"This is doing what this council does in so many areas where we say we care about human rights," Graham said.

Graham also unsuccessfully pushed for an amendment that would have allowed D.C. residents to use doctors from Maryland or Virginia to obtain a recommendation for medical marijuana. Graham noted that many District residents currently go to doctors in the suburbs. Catania worried that Graham's proposal would open the door to fraud.

"It could make a mockery of our law," Catania said.

Catania and Mendelson, who wrote the legislation, also strongly defended a provision in the bill that allows for-profit companies to run the dispensaries. Graham, backed by medical marijuana advocates, said he was concerned that for-profit companies will care more about making money then they do about caring for patients.

"We should not allow patient health to take a back seat to profit," Graham said.

Under the legislation, the mayor and Department of Health will be tasked with determining what for-profit or nonprofit companies get the chance to run the city-sanctioned dispensaries and cultivation centers.

In defending a possible for-profit approach, Catania said he hoped that the council would one day be able to assess taxes on medical marijuana.

-- Tim Craig



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By Washington Post Editors  |  May 4, 2010; 12:46 PM ET
Categories:  City Life , D.C. Council , Mayor Fenty , Tim Craig  | Tags: AIDS, Cancer, Department of Health, Jim Graham, Medical cannabis, d.c. council passes medical marijuana bill, medical marijuana bill passes  
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Comments

Comrades: What about 2nd-hand smoke, both the kind blown by the 'legal' user, and that from joints handed off to 'users' not on the original prescription for the 'medical maryjane'? Will the Bill given to Fenty come with a trial package?

Posted by: rep15 | May 4, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Catania and Mendelson are turds.

Posted by: joebanks | May 4, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I hope the moronic Congress doesn't try to overturn this. California is going to fully legalize MJ this fall, and I can't wait for that to happen. This country needs to get out of the stone age.

Posted by: miknugget | May 4, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

All the potheads out there think this is a legal sanction for use...it is specifically for medical use but people read it otherwise...

And the drama continues...

Posted by: pentagon40 | May 4, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse


He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.

~Nietzsche

Its all baby steps. It will eventually be decriminalized for uses beyond medicinal. Now that DC has given way to green, watch how quickly the less progressive states follow suit.

Posted by: BrownTown5000 | May 4, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Washington, D.C., population 591,833, will soon be filling about that many "prescriptions" each month.

How, how heart-warming ... don't you think?

All those pain-relieved patients!

S'wonderful!

Posted by: kinkysr | May 4, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

This country needs to get out of the stone age.

Posted by: miknugget | May 4, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Wouldnt legalizing it put the country into another stone age?

Posted by: ryjufox3 | May 4, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

All the potheads out there think this is a legal sanction for use...it is specifically for medical use but people read it otherwise...

And the drama continues...

Posted by: pentagon40 | May 4, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Where are you obtaining this information? I can do the same thing:

Jesus's skin color was green with a slight hue of purple

See? It's easy to speculate basing your speculation on absolute nothing.

Posted by: Bigfoot_has_a_posse | May 4, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Let Jah be praised...

Posted by: fleeciewool | May 4, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Good law but falls short. It should require all members of Congress to smoke 2 joints a day. That would make Washington a more peaceful place.

Posted by: COWENS99 | May 4, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Simply amazing that anyone in the world is still unaware that cannabis need not be smoke, and that existing medical cannabis patients are encouraged to not smoke their medicine.

Posted by: bpayne2 | May 4, 2010 11:20 PM | Report abuse

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