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SIMMONS: Residents’ voices being heard on medical pot sites
Long before Harry Thomas Jr. tendered his resignation as Ward 5 D.C. Council member, his constituents began expressing serious opposition to the possibility that medical marijuana cultivators and dispensaries would be dumped in their ward. And now that Thomas is officially off the dais, their concerns are bearing down on other lawmakers who support reefer madness.
In back-to-back meetings this week, Ward 5 residents and elected officials effectively forced on-the-record comments from the mouths of lawmakers.
He drew much applause.
On the sidelines, I asked at-large Council member Vincent B. Orange, who lives in the ward and preceded Thomas as Ward 5 representative, whether he would consider emergency legislation to address residents’ concerns.
“Absolutely,” he said.
Now, these are but three of 12 lawmakers who have the power and authority to redirect the fast-moving train that left the station in 2010, when all 13 members of the council passed a law legalizing medical pot.
Since then, D.C. Department of Health officials have given the go-ahead for seven cultivators to set up shop, including one in Ward 7, where Kwame Brown and Mayor Vincent C. Gray live. The other six want to plop their weed-growing thumbs into Ward 5 - and therein lies a major concern.
“Six of the seven sites with provisional approval are packed together within a stone’s throw of each other on Queens Chapel Road, 24th Place and Channing and Evarts streets, a byproduct of the medical marijuana program’s security demands and city zoning laws,” Tom Howell Jr. reported in Tuesday’s editions of The Washington Times.
Essentially, the tight 30-day timeline grants commissioners and residents a mere whiff of what the law and other regulations mandate, she said. Several other commissioners I spoke with agreed.
In addition to site selections and the timeline, there is a third major concern: reconciling controlled-substance laws and anti-loitering/drug-free zones with public safety concerns.
For example, the District has a prolific methadone program to wean addicts off heroin. But “patients” were known to loiter and hustle their methadone outside a dispensary near First Street and New York Avenue NE.
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About the Author
Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...
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