Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The District would allow people to have up to 2 ounces of marijuana a month — enough for about a joint a day — for certain medical uses under a bill that moved closer to passage Tuesday.

The bill would not let patients grow their own marijuana, but a committee would study whether to allow home cultivation in the city and make a recommendation by 2012. The bill was approved by two city government committees. It still needs approval of the full D.C. Council to become law and could be approved as early as May.

D.C. residents approved an initiative legalizing medical marijuana in 1998, but Congress had kept it from going into effect until December. The bill being considered by the council determines the rules for medical marijuana.

The bill specifies that qualifying patients would have to be D.C. residents and have a condition like HIV, AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis or cancer. Other conditions, including ones determined to be “chronic or long-lasting,” could be added with certain restrictions.

Other items in the bill include: limiting the number of places where people can buy marijuana in the city to five, or eight if the mayor determines more are necessary; an automatic audit of the recommendations of any physician who writes more than 250 marijuana prescriptions; and requiring patients to use marijuana only in their home or in a medical treatment facility, such as a hospital.

The bill does not set the number of places where marijuana would be actually grown in the city, though it does limit the number of plants at each growing center to 95. The number of places able to grow marijuana would be determined later, based on demand.

The bill lets qualifying patients get up to two ounces a month, though it allows the mayor to increase that amount to 2.5 ounces.

Of the 14 states that allow medical marijuana, nine allow patients to have two ounces of marijuana or more, according to information from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, an advocacy group. The group’s president, Allen St. Pierre, has said in the past that the initiative D.C. voters passed requires a home-cultivation provision and that his group and others would challenge any bill without that provision.

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