The District of Columbia issues membership cards to qualified patients and associated caregivers participating in the state's medical marijuana program. This card upholds their right to legally possess, purchase, and use marijuana as an alternative means of managing certain disorders. Patients and caregivers cannot buy recommended weed at any licensed dispensary in the district without the cards.
Medical marijuana became legal in the District of Columbia when the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative Act won at the polls in 1998. Unfortunately, Congress frustrated the immediate take-off of the program by not making funds available. However, Congress overturned its decision in 2009 and, the program launched soon after. Eventually, the first legal purchase of medical cannabis at a licensed dispensary occurred in the district in 2013. Initially, the district's Department of Health (DC Health) supervised the medical marijuana program. However, they transferred that duty to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) recently. Records show that the district registered about 9,276 patients and 48 caregivers between December 29, 2020 and January 26, 2021.
To qualify for a medical marijuana identification card as a patient in the District of Columbia, an individual must meet these conditions:
The District of Columbia permits minors below 18 years to qualify as patients in the district's medical marijuana program if their parents or legal guardians provide written consents. The parents or legal guardians must serve as the minor patients' primary caregivers.
By law, only applicants certified by evaluating physicians to have one or more of the approved conditions can participate in the district's medical marijuana program as patients. The approved medical disorders include:
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
Conditions characterized by severe and persistent muscle spasm, such as multiple sclerosis;
Any other condition, as determined by rulemaking, that is:
Chronic or long-lasting
Debilitating or interferes with the basic functions of life
A severe medical condition for which the use of medical marijuana is beneficial
That cannot be effectively treated by any ordinary medical or surgical measure
There is scientific evidence that the use of medical marijuana is likely to be significantly less addictive than the standard medical treatment for that condition.
In addition, patients undergoing specific medical or dental treatments are liable to receive medical marijuana cards in the district. These treatments include:
District of Columbia residents seeking to submit applications for acceptance into the district's medical marijuana program can apply using three different ways. These are:
Adult applicants seeking to participate in the district's medical marijuana program as patients are to download the Patient Application from the district's medical marijuana program's website. Similarly, parents and legal guardians of minor applicants are to complete the Minor Application Form. After completing these forms, applicants must attach and submit accompanying photographs, documents, and payments (checks, money orders, or cashier's checks) to:
ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE REGULATION ADMINISTRATION
2000 14th Street Northwest 4th Floor
Washington, DC 20009
Individuals seeking to become caregivers in Washington DC must meet certain conditions. Section 601 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) enumerated the minimum requirements as follows:
Before prospective caregivers begin to file applications, their respective patients must have successfully applied and be accepted into the district's medical marijuana program. This is because the applicants must submit some of their prospective patients' information while completing the caregivers' application. The application process itself involves submitting the required information on the Caregiver Application Form. Some of the details necessary to be provided on the form include:
Subsequently, applicants must also affirm that they understand the program's regulations and attest to follow these guidelines. Applicants must certify that:
After the attestation section, applicants must provide their signatures to complete the Caregiver Application Form. Prospective caregivers must then submit their forms, alongside required documents and payment, to:
ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE REGULATION ADMINISTRATION
2000 14th Street Northwest 4th Floor
Washington, DC 20009
Prospective caregivers must also submit fingerprints and undergo comprehensive criminal background checks conducted by the MPD and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The fingerprinting process begins when applicants make online payments on a DC Health portal. Subsequently, they receive emails containing their unique codes and links directing them to the Fieldprint Scheduling Website. They must create new accounts, supply the necessary information, and schedule fingerprinting appointments on the website. After providing the required details and submitting, applicants are to print the confirmation page. They will take the printed confirmation page, alongside two forms of identification, to their fingerprinting appointments. Applicants with further inquiries on the fingerprinting and criminal background checks process are to call (877) 614-4364 or contact the Fieldprint customer service center by email.
Typically, successful applicants receive their District of Columbia's medical marijuana registration cards by mail three to four weeks after their application. Applicants with incomplete information receive notifications to provide the missing details, which may prolong the arrival dates of their registration cards.
The first step to obtaining a Washington D.C. medical marijuana registration card as a patient online is to receive a D.C.- licensed physician's recommendation. Applicants must receive these recommendations within 90 days before they complete and submit their applications. In Washington DC, only these set of licensed healthcare practitioners can evaluate prospective patients:
On the application portal, applicants must select the particular healthcare practitioner that recommended cannabis for managing their different disorders. This selection leads applicants to the online Patient Application, where they must provide details that include:
After providing these necessary information, applicants must upload accompanying documents. They must have the required documents ready before starting the application process. This is because there is no provision for applicants to save their progress and come back later to complete the application. Going forward, applicants requiring the assistance of caregivers must also signify their need and select their preferred means of payment. There is the option to make payments online or mail in their checks and money orders. At this stage, applicants who qualify to pay reduced fees must indicate and provide necessary proofs. To complete the form, applicants need to append their signature by providing their full names and date of application before submitting the online application.
Upon submission, applicants receive emails confirming the receipt of their application. Those whose applications receive initial approvals get another email within three business days. This new email notifies the applicants about how to make payments. Typically, the ABRA only denies applications when any of these occurs:
Applicants that got rejected can file appeals at the District of Columbia Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) within thirty days after receiving the notice of denial. Unsatisfied parties with the OAH's decision can subsequently file appeals at the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
In Washington DC, intending patients and caregivers must pay $100 to receive their medical marijuana cards. However, the ABRA permits certain categories of people to pay reduced fees of $25. Persons authorized to pay subsidized fees include:
Patients and caregivers must note that where prospective patients qualify for reduced fees, such patients' designated caregivers must also pay the reduced rates. Prospective patients and caregivers also incur extra charges to receive the healthcare practitioner's certification.
Other fees paid by participants in the district's medical marijuana program include fees paid to replace missing or damaged cards. Patients and caregivers must pay $90 to obtain replacement cards after losing their initial issued cards. However, individuals who qualify for reduced fees only have to pay $20 to replace their cards.
Cultivation centers licensed to grow marijuana in Washington DC must pay $8,000 to obtain their licenses. The licenses expire after a year, and these centers have to pay $11,000 to renew their licenses. Individuals working at these cultivation centers pay varying fees depending on their positions. Directors, officers, members, and incorporators pay $200 each, while managers at these centers must pay $175. Employees working for licensed cultivation centers must also pay $75 each. The ABRA only permits these cultivation centers to own up to three transporting vehicles. For each vehicle owned, the centers must pay $25 per vehicle.
Dispensaries licensed to sell medical cannabis to patients and caregivers must also obtain cards before starting operations in Washington DC. New dispensaries must pay $8,000 while it costs $16,000 to renew their licenses. Owners, managers, and employees of these licensed dispensaries also pay varying fees fixed by the ABRA.
The process of renewing medical marijuana cards for patients and caregivers are essentially the same. DC-licensed healthcare practitioners must initially evaluate intending applicants and recommend their participation in the district's medical marijuana program. Subsequently, applicants log on to the ABRA's website and select the category of healthcare practitioner that evaluated them. This selection leads them to the online Patient Application. On the form, renewal applicants are to select Renewal at the Application Type section and fill in other required information.
To complete the application forms required to participate in the district's medical marijuana program, adult applicants must submit these information and documents:
Applicant's Social Security Number (SSN). Applicants without SSNs are to do the following:
Submit a sworn affidavit stating that they do not have SSNs
They must also make their SSNs available as soon as they obtain the number
Two recent 2x2 inches passport photographs with the applicant's face clearly showing
Proof of identity: Applicants must submit one clear photocopy of a US, state, or district government-issued photo ID. A driver's license or US passport are examples.
Proof of DC Residency: Applicants must submit any two of:
Proof of payment of District of Columbia personal income tax. This proof must bear the applicant's name and must be paid close to the date of filing applications
A property deed for any District of Columbia residence owned or co-owned by the applicant
A valid and unexpired lease or rental agreement on a District of Columbia residential property bearing the name of the applicant
A pay stub issued less than 45 days before the application date, and which proves the applicant's withholding of District income tax
A voter registration card bearing the applicant's name with a District of Columbia address
Current official documentation to prove the applicant receives financial assistance from the District Government. These benefits include:
Parents and legal guardians of minors applying to participate in the district's medical marijuana program must submit:
The applicant and parents or legal guardians' SSNs. Minors without SSNs must submit sworn affidavits stating they do not have one and immediately submit their SSNs when they eventually obtain the number
Two recent 2x2 inches passport photographs clearly showing the minor's face
Minor and parents or legal guardians' proof of identities. This proof can be a clear photocopy of a US or District Government-issued photo ID such as a driver's license or U.S. passport
Proof of residency for both the minor applicant and the parents or legal guardians
Written and signed statements of the parent or legal guardians stating that:
They understand the minor patient's qualifying medical condition or qualifying medical treatment
They understand both the potential benefits and possible adverse effects attached to the minor's use of medical marijuana
They consent to the minor's use of cannabis to manage the qualifying condition or side effects of the qualifying medical treatment
They agree to serve as the patient's primary caregiver, or they designate another adult to serve that purpose
Are my Details Kept Confidential When I Apply for a Medical Marijuana Card in the District of Columbia?
Yes, the records of every applicant that submits applications to participate in the district's medical marijuana program are kept confidential. Section 802.2 of the DCMR states that the District's Department of Health shall keep a strictly confidential record of every recommending physician and their records. These records maintained by the Department of Health are out of the Freedom of Information Act's jurisdictions, and members of the public cannot access them. In addition, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects the confidentiality of medical records. HIPAA's privacy rules only permit the disclosure of health information without the subject's permission in extreme circumstances. These permitted instances include situations involving a severe threat to life, when required for essential government functions, and others.
A typical District of Columbia medical marijuana card contains:
It is unlikely for anyone to track down the District of Columbia's medical marijuana program participants through the official records. This is because HIPAA requires such records to be highly confidential, with the public restricted from accessing them. Submitting a Freedom of Information request is also not enough for the registry to open its records to the public. Additionally, HIPAA's privacy rules only permit the disclosure of subjects' records to law enforcement agents in extreme circumstances.