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Fifteen Years After Approval, Medical Marijuana Finally Goes On Sale In D.C.

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A small sample of medical marijuana available at Capital City Care, D.C.'s first legal dispensary.
Capital City Care
A small sample of medical marijuana available at Capital City Care, D.C.'s first legal dispensary.

It only took 5,382 days—just shy of 15 years—but medical marijuana is finally on sale in the District.

On Monday afternoon the first legal sale of medical marijuana in the city took place since D.C. voters approved an initiative in 1998 legalizing the drug's use for medicinal purposes. D.C. joins eighteen states in allowing patients suffering from certain conditions to use marijuana to help treat symptoms and ease pain.

Alonzo, a D.C. resident who is HIV-positive, purchased his doctor-recommended dosage of marijuana from Capital City Care, a dispensary located on North Capitol Street NW, on Monday evening. “As a person living with HIV, the ability to use medical marijuana will go far in helping to alleviate the challenges I have both with the disease and side effects from my medication," he said in a statement.

After 69 percent of D.C. voters gave approval to medical marijuana, Congress stepped in and for close to a decade prohibited the city from implementing the program. Those prohibitions were lifted in 2009, and in 2010 the D.C. Council passed legislation moving the program forward. The city's regulatory mechanism has slowly been at work since in licensing growers, sellers, doctors, and patients.

Under the city's program, 10 cultivation centers will be able top grow up to 95 plants each at a time, while five dispensaries will be allowed to sell up to two ounces per patient each month. (To date, six cultivation centers and three dispensaries have been licensed.)

Patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, or severe muscle spasms will be eligible for medical marijuana after their doctor, who has to be registered with the Department of Health, recommends it.

Earlier this year Maryland moved forward on implementing a medical marijuana program.

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