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Advocates Protest Slow Progress On Medical Marijuana Program

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Protesters say the pace of medical marijuana implementation in D.C. is for the dogs.
Jessica Gould
Protesters say the pace of medical marijuana implementation in D.C. is for the dogs.

Advocates are calling on D.C. officials to speed up implementation of the city's medical marijuana program.

Wielding signs that said "Sick and Tired of Waiting" and "Protect Cancer Patients," about a dozen medical marijuana activists protested outside the D.C. Department of Health today.

Kayley Whalen, with the group Safe Access DC, helped organize the demonstration: "We are here to stand up for medical marijuana patients who are waiting to register for D.C. medical marijuana program."

Whalen says she has struggled her whole life with severe gastrointestinal problems that often renders her unable to walk or sit up. Despite considering herself straight edge most of her life, swearing off drugs and alcohol, she found that marijuana was an effective way to deal treat her symptoms.

"And I found it relieved the nausea, it relieved the pain so much better than any prescribed medicines," says Whalen.

Now two years after the D.C. Council passed legislation legalizing medical marijuana, Whalen says she and fellow patients are frustrated that they aren't able to access cannabis.

In 2010, D.C. Council passed legislation legalizing the use of medical marijuana by chronically ill patients who receive a prescription from a doctor and buy it from a city-sanctioned distribution center. But Whalen says the process is moving too slowly for the seriously ill.

"We are asking the D.C. Department of Health why no patients have been registered yet," said Whalen.

In March, the Health Department selected six companies to establish cultivation centers. Agency director Mohammed Akhter tells the Washington Post the city will have dispensaries up and running within the next several months.

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