The mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser, signed emergency legislation on July 6 that will allow residents to self-certify as medical cannabis patients and access dispensaries without a doctor’s recommendation.
This comes a week after the measure was unanimously approved by the District Council. The now-enacted legislation from Councilmembers Kenyan McDuffie and Mary Cheh effectively creates a recreational cannabis system in the jurisdiction, enabling the District to circumvent a congressional rider prohibiting D.C. from using its local dollars to implement a system of adult-use marijuana sales.
Getting a Medical Marijuana Card Has Never Been Easier
“This is really revolutionary and creative in terms of cannabis policy,” Brian Vicente, cofounder of leading cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, said. “So for a limited amount of time, any Washington, D.C. resident 21-and-over can essentially self-prescribe a medical marijuana card, which can be done by visiting the website of the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), which oversees medical cannabis. This is a pivotal big departure for any medical cannabis that we have ever seen.”
All residents have to do is visit the ABRA website, enter in their information, and they will be mailed a medical marijuana card. Vicente predicts that a slew of new patients will immediately start running to the nearest dispensaries and stock up on goods. With all of this newly added demand, local medical dispensaries will hire more workers, which can certainly have a positive impact on the D.C. cannabis market.
Bringing More Patients into the Regulated Cannabis Market
According to Vicente, in 2014, voters approved the legalization of personal cannabis possession, cultivation, and gifting, but there have been no licensed retailers for non-patients. Because Washington D.C. is under this umbrella of control by Congress, they have been locked off from actually implementing anything. Since then, every year, D.C. representatives and officials would try to have this legalization go into effect with adult-use cannabis, and Congress continues to deny them for protection.
“We have made it a priority over the years to build a more patient-centric medical marijuana program and this legislation builds on those efforts,” Bowser said in a press release. “We know that by bringing more medical marijuana patients into the legal marketplace in a timely manner and doing more to level the playing field for licensed medical marijuana providers, we can protect residents, support local businesses, and provide clarity to the community.”
What This Means for D.C. Medical Dispensaries
According to Vicente, the licensed cannabis dispensaries within Washington, D.C., are now eligible to sell to any customers who are 21-and-over and who have a medical marijuana card. Instead of going through the grueling process of making a doctor’s appointment, getting the doctor’s approval for a medical marijuana card, and then waiting for the card to come in the mail, residents can simply apply online and seamlessly receive the card in the mail. The whole process is also free, so it is a major boone for pre-existing licensed cannabis businesses.
“D.C. has a law that allows for pain and cancer patients to receive medical marijuana cards, but it does not go as far as medical marijuana programs that allow a much larger medical profile in order to get a card, such as PTSD, anxiety, and other symptoms. This will allow those patients to have access to cannabis,” Vicente said. “So it really was an innovative solution from Bowser. She did it just to prove that D.C. has this self-governance in moving forward with the voters, and she also spoke about bringing more patients to the regulated cannabis industry.”