We’ve written the sentence “DC medical marijuana dispensaries are about to open” too many times to go with that lead again until it actually happens, but the DC Department of Health did answer a related question Monday.
We were curious whether a list of doctors who are approved by DOH to write medical marijuana prescriptions would be released. Because, after all, where is a patient who doesn’t have a doctor in the program to go? We asked DOH and got this reply from Najma Roberts, the agency’s communications director, via e-mail, “there is a regulation that prevents us from providing the names of the physicians.” Therefore, consider the names to be under lock and key.
The actual regulation, 802.2, states: “The Department shall maintain a confidential record, which shall not be subject to requests under the Freedom of Information Act, of each recommending physician for the purpose monitoring compliance with the Act.” The relevant part there is protection from FOIA requests.
Roberts said security is the reason for the tight confidentiality: “In other states where the names of recommending physicians have been released, the physicians have received hostile threats and physicians have stopped recommending.” Another factor is the possibility of doctor self-promotion. “In other cases,” she said, “a recommending physician who has had his name exposed gets extra business from the free publicity.” The DC government doesn’t want to be in the position of having an impact on the “competitive position of a recommending doctor.”
We checked in, too, with one of the city’s licensed dispensaries, Capital City Care, which we visited back in March, when they thought they’d be open in mid-April. Scott Morgan of CCC said the delays have been due to the final stages of fulfilling licensing and regulation stipulations, with the last step—underway now—being the processing of request forms from doctors who want to prescribe medical marijuana. They have to be licensed in DC, practice in DC, and be approved by DOH.
Morgan said that “one of the number one issues” he hears from patients is how to find the names of doctors who will be in the program. “The doctor’s recommendation has to come from a doctor with whom the patient has an ongoing doctor-patient relationship,” he said in a phone interview. “If the doctor you know best isn’t yet comfortable with the program, and you’re really eager to get involved right away, what are you to do?” He isn’t sure a list of participating doctors is the answer, but it doesn’t matter anyway since that list won’t be available.
Morgan said CCC is up and ready to go, and one of the cultivation centers is “currently operational” and has “harvested medicine.” As for when they will begin dispensing medical marijuana, Morgan was optimistic, but with qualifiers. “Definitely could be next week,” he said, “Absolutely possible things will be opening next week.” Stay tuned.