When the council decriminalized the use of cannabis for medical purposes in 2010, the law permitted its use for only these qualifying conditions:
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS, attacks the immune system and leaves it vulnerable to other dangerous infections and illnesses. Medical marijuana helps to alleviate HIV symptoms such as nausea, loss of appetite, and nerve pains.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS): AIDS is the end stage of HIV. When HIV becomes AIDS, it shows the immune system is vulnerable, and the body is open to opportunistic infections. Cannabis helps patients alleviate some of AIDS symptoms, including AIDS wasting syndrome, nausea, fever, diarrhea, and memory loss.
Glaucoma: This is a disorder affecting the eye. It occurs when a build-up of fluids exerts pressure that damages the optic nerves. Medical marijuana helps to lower this pressure.
Conditions characterized by severe and persistent muscle spasms, such as multiple sclerosis: Multiple sclerosis occurs when an overactive immune system attacks the sheath protecting the nerve fibers. This attack leads to the damaging of the nerves and causes miscommunication between the brain and the rest of the body. Symptoms include numbness of the limbs, tremor, blurry vision, and fatigue.
Cancer: Cancer is the disorder caused by the growth of abnormal cells in a part of the body. These harmful cells multiply and spread quickly to other parts of the body. Major symptoms include loss of body weight, chronic nausea, and severe pains.
Any other condition, as determined by rulemaking, that is:
Chronic or long-lasting
Debilitating or interrupting the patient's ability to carry out the essential functions of life
A severe medical condition for which the use of medical marijuana is beneficial. To reach a conclusion on the benefits to be gained from cannabis use, physicians decide by considering:
The initial law also permitted District of Columbia residents to use medical marijuana for managing the side effects of certain medical treatments. These treatments are:
In 2014, however, the council of the District of Columbia removed the need for any qualifying condition and instead permitted evaluating physicians to determine eligibility. By enacting the Medical Marijuana Expansion Emergency Amendment Act, they gave absolute powers to the evaluating physicians. The physicians determine if the benefits of using cannabis are more than any potential risk to the patient.
Cardholders in the District of Columbia have certain rights that individuals without the district's medical marijuana identification cards do not possess. With their cards, qualifying patients can step into any licensed dispensary and purchase up to four ounces of medical cannabis within 30 days. Section 300.9, Title 22-C of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) also grants cardholders in the district the right to possess up to two ounces of dried medical cannabis at any time. Additionally, they can possess the equivalent of up to two ounces of dried marijuana at any time if the weed is in other forms. The accepted variations of cannabis include flowers, concentrates, edibles, seeds, transdermal products, and seedlings. Cardholders in the district can also grow up to six plants of weed. However, the district only permits cardholders to have only three matured plants at any time.
While the District of Columbia permits cannabis for recreational purposes, it restricts access to only persons 21 years and older. In contrast, District of Columbia residents aged 18 years and older can possess and use medical marijuana with their registration cards.
Another advantage of possessing medical marijuana identification cards is the protection granted to cardholders by the law. Law enforcement agencies cannot arrest cardholders for having amounts of cannabis that fall within the approved limits. However, possessing a District of Columbia medical marijuana identification card does not cover every violation. For example, it does not empower cardholders to undertake any task regarded as negligence or professional malpractice. In addition, cardholders in the district must not operate any moving vehicle, aircraft, or motorboat while under the influence of medical cannabis.
Section 700.2, Chapter 7 of the DCMR limits the validity of the medical marijuana identification cards issued to cardholders to only one year. After a year, participants in the program must renew their applications.
Yes, the District of Columbia practices medical marijuana reciprocity. Reciprocity refers to the district's acceptance of out-of-state medical marijuana registration cards. In other words, active patients in some approved states' medical marijuana programs can purchase cannabis at any licensed dispensary in the district with official documents issued by their original states.
While the District accepts the registration cards from about 27 other states, these states are not automatically entitled to accept registration cards issued by the district. A District of Columbia-issued registration card will only be accepted and valid in states whose medical marijuana reciprocity policy includes the district.
Yes, the district's medical marijuana reciprocity program accepts medical marijuana cards issued from other states. The district particularly accepts the registration cards issued by these states:
Possessing a DC-issued medical marijuana card does not protect the cardholder when they violate federal laws. Cannabis remains on the list of prohibited drugs by federal statutes, and having or consuming medical weed in federally-owned lands is a violation. In addition, federal employees are not permitted to participate in the district's medical marijuana program. Cardholders transporting cannabis from the district to another state, even if the state allows medical marijuana, also violate federal laws. Possessing the district's medical marijuana card does not protect cardholders from such violations.