D.C. Picks Six Companies To Grow Medical Marijuana

Mar 30, 2012

The Dis­trict has selected six com­pa­nies to grow mar­i­juana and sup­ply med­ical cannabis to users — clear­ing the way for grow­ers to start pro­duc­ing hun­dreds of plants in as lit­tle as a month. The Health Depart­ment is expected to announce Fri­day that it has selected the win­ning bid­ders for cul­ti­vat­ing plants that will feed the dis­pen­saries city offi­cials hope to approve by the sum­mer. All the grow­ers will be in North­east, includ­ing a com­pany partly owned by celebrity talk show host Mon­tel Williams. Com­bined, they will be tasked with pro­duc­ing thou­sands of plants annu­ally, in pos­si­ble vio­la­tion of fed­eral law. Two years ago, the D.C. Coun­cil voted to estab­lish as many as 10 cul­ti­va­tion cen­ters, where up to 95 mar­i­juana plants could be grown at a time at each loca­tion. Once har­vested, the mar­i­juana will be sent to five dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ters for patients to buy. Moham­mad N. Akhter, direc­tor of the Health Depart­ment, said he and a task force eval­u­ated dozens of bid­ders before select­ing the six appli­cants. Akhter said they were cho­sen based on their abil­ity to grow “qual­ity” mar­i­juana “in a safe envi­ron­ment” that includes heavy secu­rity. Akhter said he also tried to ensure that the cul­ti­va­tion cen­ters were not too tightly clus­tered in the same blocks. “I have taken every sin­gle step that I could to make sure this is done in a safe envi­ron­ment in which we can have a qual­ity prod­uct that can meet the needs of the patient in a way that the com­mu­nity is also sat­is­fied,” he said in an inter­view. “These are the best peo­ple who can do the best job.” Williams’s cul­ti­va­tion cen­ter, Abatin Well­ness Cen­ter, has been approved for the 2100 block of Queens Chapel Road in Lang­don, accord­ing to a city list obtained by The Wash­ing­ton Post. The depart­ment also selected Mon­tana Apothe­cary dba Alter­na­tive Solu­tions in the 2100 block of 24th Place NE in Lang­don; Dis­trict Grow­ers in the 2400 block of Evarts Street NE in Lang­don; Holis­tic Reme­dies in 1800 block of Fen­wick Street NE in Ivy City; Phyto Man­age­ment in the 3700 block of Ben­ning Road NE in Ben­ning; and Ven­ture Forth dba Cen­ter City in the 2200 block of Chan­ning Street NE in Lang­don. Before the appli­cants can open, how­ever, Akhter said they must apply for their busi­ness license and build­ing per­mits from the Depart­ment of Con­sumer and Reg­u­la­tory Affairs. He added that the per­mit­ting process may take less than two weeks, mean­ing the mar­i­juana grow­ers may be able to start pro­duc­tion in less than a month. But Helder Gil, a spokesman for DCRA, said it could take some providers longer to open if they plan to make major ren­o­va­tions, includ­ing addi­tional elec­tric or water sup­plies. “If they are just doing minor stuff . . . they can get a build­ing per­mit quickly and then come in and get the sign-off,” Gil said. The Health Depart­ment does not expect to com­plete the approval process for dis­pen­saries until June. “It takes about 90 days to grow the plants and have them ready,” Akhter said. “By the time grow­ers are ready with the plants, the dis­pen­saries should be in oper­a­tion.” But the Dis­trict could still face big chal­lenges in the imple­men­ta­tion of its med­ical mar­i­juana pro­gram. In recent weeks, some res­i­dents and com­mu­nity activists fought attempts to open the cul­ti­va­tion cen­ters in their neigh­bor­hood. In Jan­u­ary, D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber Vin­cent B. Orange (D-At large) suc­cess­fully pushed to limit the num­ber of cul­ti­va­tion cen­ters that could oper­ate in North­east. Last week, coun­cil mem­ber Yvette M. Alexan­der (D-Ward 7) won approval of a bill bar­ring cul­ti­va­tion cen­ters from high-profile retail cor­ri­dors — includ­ing the loca­tion Phyto Man­age­ment wants to open on Ben­ning Road. It was not clear Thurs­day night how the bill would affect the company’s plans, but Alexan­der pledged to work with the group to find a new loca­tion. The fight over the cul­ti­va­tion cen­ters could pale in com­par­i­son with the com­mu­nity oppo­si­tion that could sur­face as the Depart­ment of Health reviews the appli­cants to run the dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ters. But under the law, they are not allowed 300 feet from a school, recre­ation cen­ter or a city park. Another chal­lenge could come from law enforce­ment offi­cials because, under fed­eral law, the sale or pos­ses­sion of med­ical mar­i­juana is ille­gal. Fed­eral author­i­ties have declined to pub­licly sanc­tion the pro­gram, which restricts patients to no more than 2 ounces of mar­i­juana per month. But Akhter said he remains opti­mistic that the city’s pro­gram will with­stand legal scrutiny, cit­ing his view on the med­ical ben­e­fits of mar­i­juana. Under the city reg­u­la­tions, patients suf­fer­ing from can­cer, HIV-AIDS, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis and glau­coma qual­ify for the pro­gram. “I know one thing for sure, there are a lot more dan­ger­ous drugs that we pre­scribe,” said Akhter, a for­mer senior asso­ciate dean for pub­lic and inter­na­tional health at Howard Uni­ver­sity Col­lege of Med­i­cine. “We made this pro­gram exactly like for other drugs we pre­scribe for other pur­poses.” Although med­ical mar­i­juana patients will not be able to grow their own mar­i­juana, the District’s first pur­veyor of med­ical pot sup­plies plans to open on Rhode Island Avenue NE on Fri­day. WeGrow, a com­pany billing itself as the “Wal-Mart of Weed,” will sell mate­ri­als needed to cul­ti­vate and care for the plants, but not the plants or seeds them­selves. Staff writ­ers Mike DeBo­nis and Katie Rodgers con­tributed to this report. Source: Wash­ing­ton Post (DC) Author: Tim Craig Pub­lished: March 30, 2012 Copy­right: 2012 Wash­ing­ton Post Com­pany Con­tact: letters@​washpost.​com Web­site: http://​www​.wash​ing​ton​post​.com/

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D.C. Picks Six Com­pa­nies To Grow Med­ical Marijuana

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