Medical Marijuana One Step Closer to Capitol Hill

Posted April 12, 2012 at 2:12pm

Capitol Hill has come one step closer to becoming home to a medical marijuana dispensary.

The D.C. Department of Health announced Wednesday that the Metropolitan Wellness Center, to be located in the same two-story walk-up on Barracks Row as a Popeye’s franchise and a tattoo parlor, was among the four dispensaries chosen out of 17 applications submitted late last year.

Mike Cuthriell, the driving force behind the Metropolitan Wellness Center, tweeted that he was “excited” by the news.

Voters approved a ballot initiative green-lighting such medical marijuana dispensaries in 1998, with almost 70 percent in favor. Congress then used riders in appropriations bills to block the program from being implemented for the next 10 years.

In 2009, Congress lifted the ban, setting the stage for a long and involved application process that will end this summer after many delays in processing proposals.

Cuthriell still has to wait until June to find out whether he can begin preparations to open his dispensary for business. But being among the four selected for the final cut bodes well to snag an opening.

Legislation setting parameters for medical marijuana dispensaries dictates that their number in the district should not exceed five. Theoretically, all four dispensaries under review could be approved for operation.

Under a schedule that could, as it has in the past, be extended, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners must comment on the proposals to the DOH by May 25.

By June 11, a special six-member DOH panel will make its recommendations to the department director based on these comments, among other factors.

And applicants eligible to officially register their medical marijuana dispensaries will be announced by June 25.

Earlier this year, Barracks Row Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Ivan Frishberg indicated that while “people have questions and concerns … they are ultimately supportive” of having such a facility in their area.