The capital of cannabis?

An interview with the "Republican-leaning Independent corporate lawyer-type" behind the new DC cannabis regulations

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HERBWISE A few days after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi finally voiced her displeasure that federal agencies were making moves to curtail medical marijuana access, I was touring the hallway outside her offices in Washington DC.

"Access to medicinal marijuana for individuals who are ill or enduring difficult and painful therapies is both a medical and a states' rights issue," said Pelosi in a statement released on May 2.

And though Pelosi was surely spurred to speak on behalf of her federally-beleaguered California, she gets good reminders of cannabis' import in her adopted home in Washington. Here, the fight for medical marijuana is finally coming to a head: six cultivation centers have been given final approval and four preliminary approval to open.

"It seems likely that patients will have access to medicinal marijuana later this fall," said DC councilperson David Catania. Catania is a primary figure responsible for penning DC's cannabis regulations. He is also — in the words of one local cannabis activist who shall remain nameless — "a gay, Republican-leaning Independent corporate lawyer-type. He is both bright and brash, bordering on arrogant. He is so adamantly anti-California medical cannabis laws that most of the tight restrictions here are driven by his stark dislike for what California's laws have become."

Well! Since I was darting about our nation's capital anyway, an interview seemed to be in order so that councilperson Catania could let us know just how DC regulations worked — and what is was like working on marijuana issues in an office situated less than a mile from the Capitol Building and a block or two from the White House. I spoke to him via email last week.

SFBG You played an integral role in setting up cannabis rules and regulations in DC. Were you drawing on things that work or didn't work in any specific areas of the United States?

David Catania We set out to implement a well-regulated system that was still accessible for those who need the medication. As we are the nation's capital, we knew the spotlight would be on the program. We set out to create a system that worked for patients in need and I believe we are well on our way to accomplishing that goal.

SFBG What would you like to see happen with dispensaries in DC?

DC The four dispensaries that have been given preliminary approval are in various neighborhoods throughout the District, each with its own needs and concerns. The District Department of Health is doing extensive community outreach and work to involve residents nearby both dispensaries and cultivation centers, to educate them on the program and ensure open lines of dialogue between cultivation center and dispensary owners and their neighbors. Ensuring that positive relationship between the various parties is going to be a vital component of the program's success. [note: in DC, dispensaries have been regulated as separate from cultivation centers, which are allowed up to 95 plants per location, an amount which was designated as to avoid harsher punishment in the case of federal action.]

SFBG What is it like setting up regulations regarding a federally illegal substance here in the shadow of the White House?

DC It's interesting. We were very intentional in how we established the program, as we realized we needed to be extra-sensitive to the fact that we are the home of the federal government.

Comments

You know what frosts my tail in all this having cannabis is all of these so called medical cannabis places. They are all for profit. So look at the price, it is kept right up to the same prices that the black market charges. This is set up to look like it benefits the poor sick people, but they are getting hosed.... for the most part. Sure they can grow their own & that is it. I think these places should be not for profit & the very poor that can not afford it, the ones that are legitimately Ill should be subsidized by their closest medical cannabis dispensary...........Tonydfixer...............Seattle

Posted by Guest tonydfixer on May. 09, 2012 @ 11:40 am

is there this much hysteria when a new liquor store or bar opens up near a residental area?

it's a plant ffs!

Posted by Guest on May. 09, 2012 @ 12:10 pm

Reference to bars and liquor stores relative to the issue of medical marijuana is entirely apt, because they are the models commandeered by the medical marijuana industry, once voters signed on.

In San Francisco, a majority of voters compassionately reached out to make medical marijuana legally available—based obviously on a presumed pharmacy model.

Who’d have thought that our representatives would allow pot clubs to operate like additional bars and clubs in our neighborhoods?

And yes...new bars and liquor sores in neighborhoods challenged by the problems they present do attract an appropriate degree of concern from residents.

Tom Ferriole

Posted by Tom Ferriole on May. 09, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

and in November just say NO to Obama and Romney!!
Vote for a candidate who will respect California's voters and laws; write in Ron Paul for President!!

Posted by sf t party on May. 13, 2012 @ 9:53 am

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