DC Pot Program Still Flounders

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The District of Columbia is unique in several ways. Besides being the seat of our nation’s government, it has the distinction of being part of no state and directly managed by Congress. One problem that has emerged is how to deal with medical marijuana.

In 1998, citizens of the city voted to allow the medical use of marijuana. That’s more than a decade ago, and patients still cannot legally purchase weed in DC. Why? Because Congress put the brakes on the allowing an approved supply.

This isn’t surprising as federal law prohibits the sale of marijuana altogether, and DC is under federal jurisdiction. When city laws conflict with federal, the result is that city laws get tossed out. This made the news over gun legislation a few years ago. DC lost a Supreme Court decision and had to drop their gun ban based on Constitutional grounds.

The structure of the medical marijuana program in DC requires licensed facilities to grow marijuana and these would be the only legal suppliers to approved dispensaries. Any person caught with marijuana from outside this supply chain would be guilty of illegal possession. But in more than a decade, DC has been unable to grant any licenses to grow weed. Until this year.

It looks like the situation will change this summer, with six (out of 10 authorized) grow facilities going to be approved. The battle will then move to the dispensary side and what the federal government’s response will be. The Department of Justice could react directly and arrest those growing and selling weed – even though Congress, by way of the DC city government, has given tacit approval. No one yet knows if Obama will overlook medical marijuana sales on the Fed’s home turf or prosecute. If the Department of Justice does intervene by way of the DEA or FDA, the medical marijuana issue may finally be put before the Supreme Court.

The curious twist is that the DEA already licenses a reported 55 pot "farms." These are allowed so that pharmaceutical companies can produce THC for research and medical use.

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