Some good and bad news regarding medical marijuana on the East Coast: The nation’s capital could get its first dispensary this spring, but Massachusetts might have to wait longer than expected to hit that milestone.
First, an overview of the situation in Washington DC:
Local health department officials have finally issued the first certificates of occupancy to a medical cannabis cultivation operation and a dispensary – a major step forward for the District’s MMJ program. Holistic Remedies LLC received the certificate for a cultivation center, while Ventureforth LLC received a certificate for the dispensary, called Capital City Care.
It represents a major step forward for medical cannabis in DC and should put the city’s dispensary program on the fast track. The Department of Health will now conduct an inspection of the cultivation center and the dispensary – reviewing everything from policies and procedures to safety protocols – before granting final approval. That could come in the next week or two, which means the cultivation center could begin growing marijuana by the start of the new year.
Local MMJ laws stipulate that marijuana must be growing for at least 60 days before it can be harvested. So cannabis could be on the shelves of the first dispensary by March at the earliest. The dispensary will likely open earlier, however, to pre-register patients and sell smoking accessories and other paraphernalia.
DC Councilman David A. Catania lauded the city’s progress. “While the process has taken longer than anyone would have liked, I am pleased that we now appear to be only a few short months from the existence of a responsible, well-regulated medical marijuana program,” Catania said.
Now, an overview of the situation in Massachusetts:
On Nov. 6, Massachusetts became the 18th state in the nation to approve the use of medical marijuana. Its law calls for up to 35 nonprofit dispensaries, which could start opening by the end of next year.
The state has until April to craft regulations governing the new industry, but some lawmakers are saying that’s too soon.
An association that represents more than 200 cities and towns across the state has formally asked for a six-month delay in the program, saying the laws are vague and that the current schedule won’t give them enough time to debate and vote on local regulations. The city of Quincy is going a step further, asking for a nine-month delay.
It’s unclear how amenable the state will be to these requests. But there likely will be some type of setback, given that other states in the region that passed MMJ laws – including New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont (as well as Washington DC) – have experienced numerous delays as they attempt to set up dispensaries.