Aspiring D.C. Pot Dealers Challenge Rejections

May 10, 2012

John­nie Scott Rice has held a lot of titles in her life: direc­tor of con­stituent ser­vices, advi­sory neigh­bor­hood com­mis­sioner, D.C. Coun­cil can­di­date. But there is one title she cov­ets that has eluded her: Dis­trict pot dealer. Rice, 71, is part of the Green House, a self-proclaimed “group of old ladies,” that the city recently turned down for a license to sell med­ical mar­i­juana. Three other rejected appli­cants, includ­ing a Bethesda eye doc­tor and a com­pet­i­tive bass fish­er­man, have gone to court in the past week to con­test the city’s deci­sion, said Ted O. Gest, spokesman for the D.C. Office of Attor­ney Gen­eral. Many of those turned down have said the selec­tion process is con­fus­ing and opaque. They con­tend the D.C. Health Depart­ment did not pro­vide clear expla­na­tions for its deci­sions — an accu­sa­tion city offi­cials deny. Rice and her part­ners, who include a for­mer lin­gerie store owner and a social worker, are dis­ap­pointed, although they have decided not to pur­sue legal action. For nearly a year, the women have used their retire­ment sav­ings to lease a dis­pen­sary loca­tion in Shaw, hop­ing to pro­vide med­ical mar­i­juana to peo­ple with glau­coma, AIDS, can­cer, and mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis. They want to know exactly where they fell short in their months-long appli­ca­tion bid. “We don’t want to waste their time or our time,” Rice said. “It’s con­fus­ing even to us.” The health depart­ment, which is over­see­ing the roll-out of the med­ical mar­i­juana pro­gram, relied on a panel of experts to score each appli­ca­tion. The agency told one appli­cant that much of the pro­posal was “ade­quate” but denied it. It dinged at least three of the unsuc­cess­ful appli­cants for not pro­vid­ing a sam­ple label even though the appli­ca­tion didn’t require one. Rice’s group asked to see its scores through a request under the Dis­trict of Colum­bia Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act. But the agency refused to release the scores or other mate­r­ial that would shed light on the panel’s decision-making process, argu­ing that a final announce­ment has not yet been made, and that such doc­u­ments con­tain trade secrets. The scores are also part of con­fi­den­tial delib­er­a­tions by gov­ern­ment offi­cials that the city is not legally oblig­ated to dis­close, said health depart­ment spokes­woman Najma Roberts. That expla­na­tion trou­bles the appli­cants that were turned away. “I don’t under­stand why this is so secre­tive, espe­cially for some­thing so high pro­file,” said Tom Lin­den­feld, a local polit­i­cal con­sul­tant work­ing with Com­pas­sion Cen­ters, which is affil­i­ated with an estab­lished dis­pen­sary oper­a­tor in Cal­i­for­nia. The two other groups that have filed appeals are the Health Com­pany, which is led by Michael Dup­lessie, a Bethesda oph­thal­mol­o­gist, and the Free World Rem­edy, lead by Jonathan Mar­low, a com­pet­i­tive bass fish­er­man from North­ern Vir­ginia whose mother suf­fers from mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis. The legal chal­lenges are the lat­est wrin­kle in a selec­tion process marred by glitches from the start. Since pass­ing a med­ical mar­i­juana law in 2010, the Dis­trict has taken a go-slow approach in an effort to avoid some of the mis­takes that have been made in other juris­dic­tions, such as Col­orado and Cal­i­for­nia, where crit­ics say med­ical mar­i­juana has become lit­tle more than legal­ized drug deal­ing. The District’s reg­u­la­tions are among the tough­est in the coun­try, with strict lim­its on how many plants can be grown, how much the dis­pen­saries can charge and who can buy it. Only peo­ple with cer­tain chronic con­di­tions such as can­cer, HIV/AIDS, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis and glau­coma qual­ify; they are allowed two ounces in a 30-day period with a doctor’s rec­om­men­da­tion. The city began accept­ing appli­ca­tions last year for licenses to oper­ate up to 10 cul­ti­va­tion cen­ters and five dis­pen­saries. There were prob­lems almost imme­di­ately. Some who had planned on apply­ing were scared off by hav­ing to sign a state­ment say­ing they under­stood grow­ing and sell­ing mar­i­juana was still ille­gal under fed­eral law. The health depart­ment ini­tially rejected some appli­cants for minor errors, such as leav­ing off e-mail addresses, then later let them back in. Offi­cials also rejected Duplessie’s appli­ca­tion to oper­ate a cul­ti­va­tion cen­ter because it was 90 min­utes late — even though an evac­u­a­tion of the agency’s offices was partly to blame. The agency was sup­posed to announce the dis­pen­sary licensees ear­lier this spring but pushed the date back to June, forc­ing some of the appli­cants, includ­ing Rice’s group, to spend addi­tional money to con­tinue leas­ing space. Last month the health depart­ment last month informed the 17 aspir­ing pot retail­ers which of them were still in the run­ning. Only four made it through, and they must win approval from their local advi­sory neigh­bor­hood com­mis­sions. The four that made it: Herbal Alter­na­tives, which is look­ing to open a dis­pen­sary near 20th and M streets NW; Met­ro­pol­i­tan Well­ness Cen­ter Cor­po­ra­tion, which is eye­ing a loca­tion along Bar­racks Row on Capi­tol Hill by a fast-food restau­rant and a tat­too par­lor; Takoma Well­ness Cen­ter, which plans to open near the Takoma Metro Sta­tion; and Ven­ture­Forth LLC, which has a site by O and North Capi­tol streets NW. So far, many of the groups that the city has tapped to grow and to sell med­ical mar­i­juana have mainly been estab­lished pot dis­pen­saries and cul­ti­va­tors from other parts of the coun­try, includ­ing Abatin Well­ness Cen­ter of Sacra­mento, the brain­child of for­mer talk-show host Mon­tel Williams. Local offi­cials, includ­ing D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber David Cata­nia (I-At Large), had hoped for more local rep­re­sen­ta­tion. The local play­ers who have made the cut for either a dis­pen­sary or cul­ti­va­tion license are retired Takoma Park rabbi Jef­frey Kahn and his wife, Stephanie; lawyer Edward Gran­dis, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Dupont Cir­cle Mer­chants and Pro­fes­sion­als Asso­ci­a­tion; financier Corey Bar­nette; and Capi­tol Hill liquor store own­ers Rick and Jon Gen­der­son. Deep roots in the city were a big part of the pitch that Rice, a third-generation Wash­ing­ton­ian, made at com­mu­nity gath­er­ings in Shaw, where their dis­pen­sary was to be located, on the same block as social ser­vice agency Bread for the City. Rice grew up in Trinidad, the daugh­ter of a brick­layer, and has been a long­time fix­ture on the D.C. polit­i­cal scene. She has run for office, worked as an aide to Cata­nia and served as an advi­sory neigh­bor­hood com­mis­sioner in Ward 7 for 10 years. She is also an insulin-dependent dia­betic, has glau­coma and can no longer drive at night. Not long after the D.C. Coun­cil made med­ical mar­i­juana legal, she heard from friends in Cal­i­for­nia that cannabis could help peo­ple with glau­coma. “It made me think about this,” she said. “If this med­i­cine can improve these con­di­tions in me, why not?” Unbe­knownst to her, Francine Levin­son, 61, was also think­ing about apply­ing for a license. Levin­son has started busi­nesses before. She got into bank­ing after she dis­cov­ered she couldn’t get a loan with­out her hus­band or her father sign­ing for her. She became a found­ing mem­ber of the First Women’s Bank of Mary­land. Levin­son later ran a lin­gerie store for nine years. She and Rice have been friends for years, but they didn’t tell each other right away about their inter­est in pur­su­ing a med­ical mar­i­juana dis­pen­sary license. “Every­body was so timid about it,” Rice said. After a mutual friend clued both of the them in, the two decided to part­ner up and even con­sid­ered nam­ing the busi­ness, “Frankie and John­nie,” a ref­er­ence to the clas­sic song, until Levinson’s daugh­ter, Stephanie Man­tel­macher, 46, said, “no one is going to know what that means.” See­ing that her input might come in handy, Man­tel­macher, a for­mer exec­u­tive with XM Satel­lite Radio, joined the group. Leigh A. Slaugh­ter, 58, a lawyer and real estate agent, and for­mer Whitman-Walker Clinic offi­cial Patri­cia Hawkins, 71, filled out the team. If the city opens up the process again, Rice said, they would con­sider mak­ing another attempt. Until then, they can only imag­ine what might have been. The peo­ple who will be com­ing to buy med­ical mar­i­juana “don’t want to see some young kids sell­ing dope,” she said. “Most of the clien­tele is going to look like us. We are the face of the users of med­ical mar­i­juana.” Source: Wash­ing­ton Post (DC) Author: Annys Shin Pub­lished: May 9, 2012 Copy­right: 2012 Wash­ing­ton Post Com­pany Con­tact: letters@​washpost.​com Web­site: http://​www​.wash​ing​ton​post​.com/

9f2236e406c1.jpg 150x90 Aspiring D.C. Pot Dealers Challenge Rejections

Orig­i­nally posted here:
Aspir­ing D.C. Pot Deal­ers Chal­lenge Rejections

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