A democratic Congress did not overrule the Washington, D.C. Council bill allowing the district to establish up to eight medical marijuana dispensaries where patients can purchase the drug. Congress had 30 legislative session days to review the bill that was approved by the D.C. Council in May of 2010. Now that the bill has cleared Congress, patients will likely have to wait several months for Mayor Adrian M Fenty and the D.C. Department of Health to establish marijuana dispensary licensing regulations.
The law passed by the District of Columbia allows allows patients with cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS and other chronic ailments to possess up to four ounces of the drug. Patients will not be allowed to grow their own marijuana for medical use. Medical marijuana will need to be purchased from licensed companies once a patient has obtained a doctor's permission. Patients who prove financial need will be eligible to purchase medical marijuana at reduced cost, or receive it free of charge.
Medical marijuana sales are also subject to the district's 6 per cent sales tax.
Washington, D.C. residents voted to allow medical marijuana use in a 1998 referendum. Until last year, Congress blocked the city from enacting that referendum.
This announcement comes just a few days after the startling news from the Department of Veterans Affairs that will formally allow veterans being treated at its hospitals and clinics in states that have legalized use of medical marijuana to use it. The directive, expected to take place during the week of July 26, 2010, is designed to clarify conflicts between federal laws outlawing use of marijuana and the 14 states that currently allow medicinal use of the drug. The new policy will not permit VA doctors to prescribe marijuana, but alleviates the concerns of VA patients who use the drug and are concerned about losing access to all prescription pain medications if caught.
Doctors may still modify a treatment plans if a veteran is using marijuana, or opt to discontinue other pain medicine if there is a risk of interactions, but the decisions will now be made on an individual basis. Veterans have fought for this change for many years, citing marijuana's positive effects on physical and psychological pain, as well as its role in diminishing side effects of specific medical treatments.
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