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A bill is pending before the D.C. Council to effect such a ban, a measure made difficult by the ability of manufacturers to alter compounds and evade statutes that specify a list of substances. Meanwhile, Dr. Levin wants to leverage federal grant funds from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“We’re now going to create this campaign with the feds — the schools are involved, the clinics will be involved, the emergency rooms,” Dr. Levin said.

He views the campaign as the confluence between Department of Health’s expertise and the needs of other city departments. It was Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier who approached the department, he said, to note that some city youth were “acting really strange on the streets” as a potential result of synthetic-drug use.

While the city shines a light on the deleterious effects of new substances, it is trying to relieve the suffering of the sick and dying through a burgeoning medical-marijuana program.

Dr. Levin said only one of the six applicants allowed to register for a cultivation center has taken affirmative steps to obtain a business license and pass the final regulatory hurdles. Among dispensaries, one of the four approved registrants has taken bona fide steps toward operation.

“At this moment, we now wait for them to go through those processes before we then move to the next step of getting it implemented,” he said.

The District has tread carefully in rolling out its program since residents voted in favor of it in 1997. After years of congressional interference, the council established a legal framework for the program in 2010. But the U.S. Department of Justice has taken a wavering stance on the legality of medical marijuana, leaving some states’ program participants under the threat of prosecution.

Dr. Levin is hopeful that all factions will rely on one of his favorite motifs — integration.

“I think the federal government has their perspective, the citizens had theirs —it was voted on and we’ll do it,” he said. “And we’ll do it right.”