Major Milestone: 1st Washington DC Marijuana Dispensary Slated to Open After Long Delays

The first medical marijuana dispensary in Washington DC plans to open its doors this April, kick-starting a new market that has been beset by delays and challenges for several years.

Capital City Care – one of four dispensaries planning to open in DC – says it should be ready to begin serving patients with MMJ cards by April. It recently obtained a cultivation license and is currently growing the marijuana it will sell this spring.

Talk about irony. The opening of a dispensary in the nation’s capital – just miles away from the agencies charged with enforcing the country’s cannabis laws – ranks as a huge milestone and an important symbolic victory for the MMJ industry given that medical marijuana remains illegal federally.

It’s unclear how the federal government will respond when dispensaries open in its backyard. But the feds will likely take a hands-off approach, given that they haven’t interfered with the process in DC so far.

Despite Capital City Care’s pledge to try to open by early April, some local MMJ professionals are filing this in the “Believe it When I See it” folder. Washington DC voters actually approved medical marijuana in 1998, yet local officials put it on ice for nearly two years before enacting a modified version of the original law. Dispensaries have been in the works since the spring of 2011, but the drawn-out, difficult permitting process created delays that has pushed back the timeline.

While the skepticism is warranted, it appears that DC’s medical marijuana program is actually making solid progress, and Capital City Care has cleared all of the major licensing and permitting hurdles needed to open. In fact, three other dispensaries – Metropolitan Wellness, Takoma Wellness Center and Herbal Alternatives – could open around the same time or soon after.

The consumer base in DC is expected to be quite small – an estimated 1,000 patients or less initially – due to strict regulations on who can receive cards. Unlike some MMJ states in the west that allow residents to get cards for general ailments like chronic pain, DC’s program covers only a few qualifying medical conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and health issues that lead to persistent muscle spasms.

Medical Marijuana Business Daily estimates initial sales of between $1 million and $3 million annually when the four dispensaries are up and running.

Image credit: Capital City Care website