News & Politics

DC Mayor Will Look Into Expanding Medical Marijuana

Mayor Vince Gray is appointing an advisory group to determine if more patients should qualify for the treatment.

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After complaints from the city’s first medical marijuana clinics that there are too few patients to make it a profitable enterprise, DC Mayor Vince Gray appointing an advisory committee to look into how the treatment might be expanded.

As of October 21, only 59 patients were enrolled by the four existing clinics, according to testimony before the DC Council. The District’s medical marijuana program is one of the country’s most restrictive, with access available only to patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, or a condition that causes muscle spasms.

During that hearing, David Guard, the owner of Capital City Care, a clinic in Northwest, said he was having trouble getting his business going with so few patients. The very short list of qualifying conditions even has some people thinking of moving to California where more diseases can be treated with weed.

The city’s medical professionals have also been sluggish in recommending medical marijuana to their chronically ill patients. Through October, only 39 out of DC’s approximately 1,400 doctors had recommended the treatment.

Gray’s new panel will look at medical marijuana laws in other states, according to a memorandum published by his office this week. The committee will be composed of two four-member subcommittees. One group—including Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier (or a subordinate) will examine the medical mariijuana program’s effectiveness and whether it should be expanded to allow home cultivation. The other subcommittee, whose members will be appointed by the Department of Health, will consider if any medical conditions should be added to the list of illnesses that qualify a person for medical marijuana.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.