Regulations have been finalized to allow for the sanctioned-use and dispensing of medical cannabis in two more regions of the country: Arizona and in the nation’s capitol, Washington, DC.
In Arizona, representatives from the Arizona Department of Health Services have approved rules governing the state’s soon-to-be-implemented Arizona Medical Marijuana Program. Voters directed the state to approve regulations regarding the use and distribution of medicinal marijuana in November when they decided in favor of Proposition 203 — making Arizona the fifteenth state since 1996 to legalize the physician-authorized use of cannabis. Program rules, physician certification forms, and answers to frequently asked questions are all available online from the Arizona Department of Health Services here.
Arizona patients may begin qualifying for the program next week, and dispensary applications will be accepted beginning June 1. All patients initially approved by the state will have the option to cultivate their own marijuana. However, patients who reside within 25 miles of a state-licensed dispensary will lose this option once such facilities are up and running later this fall.
In the District of Columbia, city leaders have finally signed off on long-awaited rules regulating patients’ use and access to cannabis. Those rules are expected to take effect April 15. The just-finalized regulations will permit D.C. officials to allow as many as ten cultivation centers and five dispensaries in the District. Permit applications are anticipated to be available by April 17.
The forthcoming rules implement facets of I-59, the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative, a 1998 municipal ballot measure which garnered 69 percent of the vote yet was never implemented. Under the new regulations, qualifying D.C. patients will be able to obtain medical cannabis at licensed dispensaries, but will not be permitted under the law to grow their own medicine.
Washington DC’s forthcoming program is limited to residents of the District of Columbia and is not reflective of any broader change in federal policy.
Additional information on these and other state medical marijuana programs is available from the NORML website here.
[Editor's note: This post is excerpted from this week's forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML's media advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up for NORML's free e-zine here.]
Congressional lawmakers had up to 30 working days to reject the law. That review period officially ended Monday evening.
In June, a pair of Republican House members, Reps. Jason Chaffetz (Utah) and Jim Jordan (Ohio) introduced legislation to overturn D.C.’s medical marijuana law, stating, “Marijuana is a psychotropic drug classified under Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act as having ‘high potential for abuse,’ ‘no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,’ and a ‘lack of accepted safety for use of the drug…under medical supervision.’ While certain of these principles may be open to significant debate within segments of the medical community, and among pro-legalization/decriminalization groups, [we are] opposed to re-classification and decriminalization efforts.”
Their effort failed to gain any significant support in Congress.
Under the new law, D.C. Health Department officials will oversee the creation of as many as eight facilities to dispense medical cannabis to authorized patients. Medical dispensaries would be limited to growing no more than 95 plants on site at any one time.
Both non-profit and for-profit organizations will be eligible to operate the dispensaries.
Qualifying D.C. patients will be able to obtain medical cannabis at these facilities, but will not be permitted under the law to grow their own medicine.
A separate provision enacted as part of the 2011 D.C. budget calls for the retail sales of medical cannabis to be subject to the District’s six percent sales tax rate. Low-income will be allowed to purchase medical marijuana at a greatly reduced cost under the plan.
It will likely be several months before Health officials begin accepting applications from the public to operate the City’s medical marijuana production and distribution centers.
District lawmakers said that the newly enacted legislation implements key components of Initiative 59 — a 1998 DC ballot measure that garnered 69 percent of the vote. Until this year D.C. city lawmakers had been barred from instituting the measure because of a Congressional ban on the issue. Congress finally lifted the ban in 2009.