HEALTH • BY DARLENE REYES
Two years after Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray signed the “Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Amendment Act of 2010” details about the new law remain scant.
The law approved the use of medical marijuana for HIV, AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and cancer. Other serious medical conditions may be considered in the future.
The maximum amount of medical marijuana that a patient or caregiver could posses at any time is two ounces. The mayor is allowed to increase that amount and limit the amount of medical marijuana a patient can carry if it is in a form other than dried.
A dispensary has yet to open and provide medical marijuana but the city has recently named and given the address of four dispensaries that have applied to and been granted permits.
One dispensary, Takoma Wellness Center, is located in Takoma D.C. Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn and Stephanie Kahn were advocates of medical marijuana and wanted to create a dispensary. It was an issue that was close to home as they had family members who dealt with multiple sclerosis and cancer, two diseases that would have been less painful with medical marijuana.
The dispensary would work with a physician recommending a patient use medical marijuana. That decision will have to be approved by the Department of Health. Approved patients will then be able to make an appointment at Takoma Wellness Center.
The staff at Takoma Wellness Center will be trained in selecting the appropriate strain of marijuana, finding the appropriate dose, and determining the best method for ingestion, according to Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn.
The dispensary will not grow its own marijuana. Their supply will come from the six Department of Health- licensed cultivation centers.
“We have had a lot of neighborhood support. The Old Takoma Business Association, as well as several individual local businesses pledged support, and ANC4B voted 6-2 to support our application. Some neighbors have expressed concerns, which we have addressed. We will continue to address neighborhood concerns as they arise,” commented Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn.
David Hamilton, one of Takoma D.C.’s residents who expressed his concern over the issue, is an advocate of medical marijuana and even recreational marijuana. His main concern over the Takoma Wellness Center dispensary is its location.
“[Takoma D.C. residents] are always concerned about the activity in that area,” said Hamilton. David Hamilton is a professional urban designer and planner and was on the committee for planning the park that is near the Takoma Wellness Center location. He says there is always “nefarious” behavior observed at the park, especially at night. It also does not help that there are a few places that sell liquor around there, so there are quite a few drunken people at night.
Hamilton says that he and other residents are concerned about the increased crime this dispensary could bring. People could potentially camp out and rob patients going into the dispensary, suspecting them of having money, or coming out of the dispensary, in order to get the marijuana the patient just obtained.
According to its website, Takoma Wellness Center will have an off duty police officer there at all times. However, this does not quell Hamilton’s fears.
Supporters of medical marijuana have criticized the Department of Health for its slow pace in getting dispensaries up and running. However, others have lauded the response as cautious.
“It’s good to be cautious. It’s an issue that causes a lot of contention [as] there are strong feelings on both sides,” said Faith Wheeler, a member of the ANC4B. However, she does feel that the Department of Health should provide more information about medical marijuana and admits that she herself only knows what she has heard in presentations.
Wheeler also questions why smoking marijuana is an option for patients seeking relief from medical marijuana as burning medical marijuana seems to reduce its effectiveness. This is just one of a few questions she would like the Department of Health to answer the public.
The city limits the amount of medical marijuana a patient can purchase, which is two ounces per month, and patients who require more than that will not be able to meet their needs through this program.
No cost has been determined for medical marijuana but it is certain that no health insurance policy covers medical marijuana.