DC To Loosen Medical Marijuana Restrictions

After the recent passage of marijuana decriminalization in the nations capitol, lawmakers are looking to expand the medical marijuana program. Currently the program is very restrictive, allowing for cannabis use under a doctors recommendation for only four conditions. The new legislation would allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana for any patient that they feel could benefit from the natural therapy, regardless of affliction.

D.C. Council members introduced legislation Tuesday that would greatly expand availability of medical marijuana to D.C. patients by doing away with the list of qualifying conditions that currently restrict access to the program.

A bill introduced by Council member Yvette M. Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Health, would eliminate a list of four conditions that currently allow a patient to seek a doctor’s referral to use medical marijuana. Instead the bill would amend the definition of “qualifying medical condition” to mean any condition determined to benefit from medical marijuana treatment by the patient’s physician.

The council’s 13 members unanimously sponsored the bill, virtually assuring its eventual passage.

Currently, the District’s tightly regulated program identifies only four illnesses as eligible for medical marijuana treatment — HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and conditions characterized by severe and persistent muscle spasms, such as multiple sclerosis. While officials believe as many as 40,000 of the District’s 640,000 residents could qualify for the city’s medical marijuana program under those conditions, only about 200 patients have been approved since the program got up and running in July.

“It has been made clear that this program is in need of a legislative improvement,” Ms. Alexander said as she introduced the legislation.

“While we are able to legislate what conditions we think are best, it is clear that the medical opinion of a physician should take priority in determining who obtains access to medical marijuana,” Ms. Alexander said.

 

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