Washington DC Medical Marijuana

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What is Medical Marijuana in Washington D.C.?

In the District of Columbia, medical marijuana refers to the legal consumption of cannabis to alleviate any of the approved disorders. Marijuana became an accepted alternative for residents to explore when the state decriminalized weed usage for medical purposes. Cannabis became an alternative medical solution when several studies highlighted the efficacy of certain compounds in cannabis in managing certain illnesses. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), especially, have certain effects that alleviate the adverse effects of some disorders. However, District of Columbia residents could not explore this alternative because marijuana remained a prohibited Schedule 1 substance. Fortunately for the residents, the council of the District of Columbia enacted the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Amendment Act in 2010. This law decriminalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes within the district. Initially, the council placed the burden of supervising the district's medical cannabis program under the DC Department of Health (DC Health). However, that duty shifted to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) recently.

Is Medical Marijuana Legal in the District of Columbia?

Yes. Medical marijuana is legal in the District of Columbia under the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Act of 2010. This Act allows DC residents to purchase, possess, and use cannabis to treat diagnosed qualifying medical conditions or their related side effects. The 2010 Act also established the DC medical cannabis program. On October 1, 2020, the DC medical cannabis program was transferred from the DC Department of Health to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA). Medical marijuana in DC is available as concentrates, flowers, edibles, transdermal products, seeds, and seedlings forms.

Who Can Get Medical Marijuana in the District of Columbia?

Medical marijuana is available to bona fide DC residents who have obtained medical cannabis recommendations from DC-licensed physicians and have been diagnosed to suffer from any of the qualifying medical conditions or undergoing qualifying medical treatments. These conditions include:

  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • Glaucoma
  • Cancer
  • Conditions characterized by persistent and severe muscle spasms, including multiple sclerosis
  • Any other condition determined by DC that is chronic, debilitating, and interfering with the basic functions of life for which the use of medical marijuana is beneficial
  • Any condition that cannot be effectively treated by any ordinary surgical or medical measure or for which there is scientific proof that the use of medical marijuana is likely to be significantly less addictive
  • Any condition requiring medical treatment for which chemotherapy, azidothymidine or protease inhibitors, or radiotherapy use is required

Non-residents from eligible jurisdictions may also purchase medical marijuana by presenting their physical or digital government-issued medical marijuana cards or registrations at medical cannabis dispensaries in DC.

Can You Grow Medical Marijuana in the District of Columbia?

According to the Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Initiative of 2014 (Initiative 71), DC residents aged 21 or older may grow up to six marijuana plants at home, three of which may be mature. If multiple adults live in a household, no more than 12 marijuana plants may be cultivated, 6 of which may be mature. Initiative 71 prohibits exchanging money, goods, or services for homegrown marijuana. Anyone found in possession of more than 2 ounces of marijuana may be arrested.

In DC, marijuana cultivation must be conducted in enclosed areas inaccessible to minors and cannot be seen from public spaces without the use of optical aids. Marijuana growers are also required to take appropriate measures to mitigate the odor of the marijuana plants cultivated. Marijuana growing may only be conducted on the grower's private property. If growing on a rented property, the cultivator must check with the landlord or property manager to ensure that the owner has placed no restrictions on growing marijuana. The cultivation limits for qualified patients are the same for designated caregivers under the DC medical marijuana program.

Do You Need to See a Doctor to Get Medical Marijuana in the District of Columbia?

Yes. The District of Columbia requires DC residents, including minors, to obtain medical cannabis recommendations from state-licensed healthcare practitioners before completing applications for medical marijuana cards. These physicians will review the patients' medical records and may carry out additional tests to verify that medical marijuana use is required to treat the conditions suffered by such persons.

The District of Columbia permits physicians, physician assistants, Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARPNs), dentists, and naturopathic physicians to issue medical cannabis recommendations to qualifying patients. Among other conditions required for healthcare practitioners to be eligible to issue medical cannabis recommendations, the District requires that they be in good standing to practice medicine or osteopathy in DC and have bona fide relationships with their qualifying patients. The healthcare practitioners registered to issue medical cannabis certifications in DC are listed on a roster published on the ABRA website. The ABRA makes biennial updates to the roster.

Can a Minor Get a Medical Marijuana Card in the District of Columbia?

Yes. A DC resident under the age of 18 may obtain medical marijuana through the assistance of a caregiver. Prior to getting a medical marijuana card that qualifies the minor to use medical marijuana, the minor must be diagnosed and obtain a medical cannabis recommendation from a qualified healthcare practitioner certifying them to use medical marijuana in the District of Columbia.

How to Apply for a Medical Marijuana Card in the District of Columbia

Before initiating an application for a medical marijuana card in the District of Columbia, you should gather all the required documentation and information needed to complete the application. Required documentation include:

  • A medical cannabis recommendation issued by your healthcare practitioner within two years of the application submission date or self-certification if you are a senior citizen (aged 65 or older)
  • Social security number (SSN) or a copy of a sworn affidavit stating that you do not have an SSN
  • A current "2x2"-sized face photo
  • A copy of DC DMV Real ID or proof of DC residency and a copy of a government-issued photo identification

You may complete your application online, by mail, or in person at:

ABRA

Medical Cannabis Program

2000 14th Street NW

Suite 102A (First Floor)

Washington, DC 20009

To complete a medical marijuana card application online, select from the link below the healthcare practitioner type that issued you a medical cannabis recommendation:

For a mail application, complete the Adult Patient Application form or the Patient Application (Minor) form and mail the completed form with a check or money order for the appropriate application fee to the ABRA address stated above.

For more inquiries about obtaining a medical marijuana card in the District of Columbia, contact the DC medical cannabis program by calling (202) 442-4423 or emailing medicalcannabis@dc.gov.

Does the District of Columbia Allow Medical Marijuana Patients to Designate Caregivers?

Yes. The District of Columbia provides for the use of caregivers under the medical cannabis program. The District defines a caregiver as anyone whom a qualifying medical cannabis patient has designated as the individual authorized to possess, obtain from a medical cannabis dispensary, and dispense medical cannabis on their behalf as well as assist in its administration. In order to be eligible to be designated as a medical cannabis caregiver in the District of Columbia, the individual must:

  • Be aged 18 or older
  • Agree to be registered as a qualified patient's caregiver
  • Serve only one qualifying patient at a time
  • Not be employed to administer medical marijuana at a dispensary or cultivation center

The District of Columbia does not assign caregivers to qualified patients. It is the responsibility of qualified patients to find persons who will agree to serve as their caregivers. A qualified patient can assign no more than one caregiver at any time. Medical cannabis caregivers in DC are required to apply for caregiver cards.

What Is the Cost of a District of Columbia Medical Marijuana Card?

The fee for a medical marijuana card in the District of Columbia is $100. The District charges $90 for a replacement card. Persons who qualify for reduced fees must pay $25 for standard cards and $20 for replacement cards. Those seeking reduced fees must present proofs to support their indigent claims. Such proofs include DC or federal tax filing returns for the most recent tax year or earning statements received in the last 30 days.

The renewal fee for a medical marijuana card in DC is $100, or $25 if you are eligible for reduced costs. Payment for a medical marijuana card application fee may be made by check or money order made payable to the DC Treasurer. Payments may also be made by MasterCard, Visa, Discover, or American Express. The ABRA does not accept cash payments.

What Do You Need When Visiting a Medical Marijuana Dispensary in the District of Columbia?

To purchase medical marijuana from approved medical cannabis dispensaries in the District of Columbia, you must provide your medical marijuana card and a photo identification card. Out-of-state medical marijuana cardholders visiting DC medical marijuana dispensaries for the first time must also provide their state-issued photo IDs, medical marijuana cards, and the physician recommendations certifying them for medical marijuana use.

How to Renew Your District of Columbia Medical Marijuana Card

Medical marijuana cards in the District of Columbia are valid for one year. You will be required to pay the applicable renewal fee when renewing your card. In addition, you are required to undergo an annual evaluation with your authorizing healthcare practitioner in order to keep your medical marijuana card valid and active. It is recommended that you schedule the annual assessment with the practitioner on time to have sufficient time left for the renewal, as it may take some time before the ABRA approves your renewal application.

Depending on which option is the most convenient, you may renew your medical marijuana card online via the ABRA website, through the mail, or in person. The renewal process is the same as the initial application process for obtaining a medical marijuana card.

Is it Possible to Overdose on Cannabis in Washington D.C.?

Consuming more doses of cannabis than recommended by a District of Columbia-licensed physician can have severe consequences. The overdose user often experiences extreme anxiety, paranoia, quickened heart rate, increased blood pressure, severe nausea, and confusion. These adverse effects notwithstanding, many studies agree that it is almost impossible for a cannabis overdose incident to be fatal. Regardless of the lack of a direct link between marijuana overdose and death, there may be cases of deaths caused indirectly by cannabis consumption. Individuals impaired by the intake of weed must not be allowed to control a moving vehicle or boat. These people are usually unaware of their actions and surroundings, which may cause fatal accidents.

If I am Pregnant, Can I Use Cannabis to Relieve Nausea in the Washington D.C.?

The actual effect of cannabis intake during pregnancy on the fetus is yet to be fully determined. In a DC Health report on the progress of the District of Columbia's medical cannabis program, the department acknowledged the lack of sufficient studies on this topic. However, the department highlighted the possible risks pregnant women face if they continue using cannabis during pregnancy. Low birth weight, preterm labor, and possible admission into neonatal intensive care units are some of the risks of marijuana use during pregnancy. Pregnant women are not the only ones at risk of developing adverse side effects when they consume cannabis. It is also not advisable for breastfeeding women to consume weed. The DC Health report cited a study that observed that newborns exposed to cannabis through breastfeeding risk having reduced infant motor development for up to a year. There are also some long-term effects, including reduced attention span, academic underachievement, and inadequate problem-solving skills.

Washington DC Medical Marijuana
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