Medical marijuana experts and activists are coming to D.C. for a national conference next week - just as the district's first medical marijuana dispensaries gear up for business.
The city has licensed six facilities to grow the drug and four shops to sell medicinal marijuana. Capital City Care on North Capitol Street is one of those shops. They hope to open in early April, becoming the district's first medical marijuana dispensary. General manager David Guard said the rules will be the strictest in the country. "The receptionist will double check your ID, issued by the Department of Health, against their database," Guard explained.
What used to be a Curves gym is now a pot shop, with bamboo woodwork, soft lighting and customers lining up. Guard said, "We get knocks on the door almost on a daily basis now... from MS patients to cancer patients and AIDS patients." Only D.C. residents with specific illnesses can buy the marijuana. They can buy up to two ounces a month, which is subject to D.C. sales tax. Customers are not permitted to smoke on the premises.
Besides raw marijuana, they'll also sell pot-infused cookies, brownies, candy and drinks - all made at Capital Care's cultivation center in Northeast. The dispensary will sell also paraphernalia and offer counseling services. Security, the owners say, is paramount. There are cameras everywhere and biometric locks that only allow staffers to enter.
But many worry that selling a big drug invites equally big abuse. In fact, a California survey found the average medical marijuana user was actually a 32-year-old white male who started using the drug before age 19. A Colorado study found only three percent of medical marijuana users had cancer or HIV/AIDS. Ninety-four percent of users said they had "severe pain."
Arthur Dean, with the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), said, "I have a sore finger. I have a bad back. I have a headache. Whatever...and with a few dollars you get a card, and you're buying marijuana." "That's just not the case," Guard argued. "Not the case. This is about medicine." That will help the sick, he says, and help clean up a blighted neighborhood, too. "I am very excited. This is a dream come true....things are about to change in D.C. for the better...," Guard continued. - abc