Pubdate: Wed, 23 Oct 2013
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2013 The Washington Post Company
Author: Aaron C. Davis
Page: A1


In the three months that medical marijuana has been legal to purchase in 
the District of Columbia, sales have yet to advance beyond a trickle.

The city's pioneering dispensaries say they are losing money; doctors 
remain fearful to write prescriptions; and patients with HIV or cancer 
who may legally obtain the drug say they have been stymied by lengthy 
applications and warnings that the purchases remain illegal under 
federal law.

Those were among the many warnings that advocates for a robust medical 
marijuana program ticked off Monday at a hearing, as they urged D.C. 
council members to relax the city's strict medical marijuana standards.

Since the first legal purchase of medical marijuana in the District in 
late July, 59 patients, or fewer than one per day, have had their names 
added to the list of those legally registered to buy it, said Feseha 
Woldu, senior deputy director of the Health Regulation and Licensing 

Just over half of those have HIV/AIDS. And the patients come from all 
corners of the city, with Ward 6 having the largest share, at 20 
percent, and Ward 5 having the smallest, with 5 percent. Three quarters 
of the patients are male, Woldu said.

The figures, released Monday in a hearing before the council's health 
committee, formed the basis for repeated pleas by advocates and 
residents to relax the rules.

For starters, advocates said the city needs to do a better job training 
and clearing up misconceptions for doctors about prescribing marijuana. 
The city should also expand the list of chronic or terminal illnesses 
that qualify for legal cannabis use, they said.

A father of a severely epileptic 4-year-old said his family would move 
to California next year if a refined version of cannabis that could 
limit his son's 10-15 daily seizures is not authorized for therapy in 
the District.

Others said that post-traumatic stress disorders, digestive ailments, 
and migraine headaches should be added to the list. Some even argued 
that the list should be done away with entirely, and symptoms left up to 
doctors to manage with marijuana as they see fit.

Woldu stressed that the city had been prudent and its first priority 
remains to make sure that the public safely uses medical marijuana.

Council member Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), and the health committee 
chair, said she was open to considering an expansion of the list of 
ailments that would qualify for medical marijuana use.

But she said was also concerned that concerned that so few people had 
taken advantage of the program so far. "We already have a lot of HIV, 
cancer, glaucoma -- there are thousands in the district ... We're 
talking about expanding, but we're not really utilizing it to the full 
extent currently."
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