Liquor Regulators May Help Oversee DC MMJ Program
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Liquor Regulators May Help Oversee DC MMJ Program
Posted by CN Staff on August 06, 2010 at 20:14:57 PT
By Mike DeBonis, Washington Post Staff Writer 
Source: Washington Post
Washington, D.C. -- District liquor regulators will play a lead role in the city's new medical marijuana program when it debuts Jan. 1, according to draft rules issued Friday by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).Under the regulations, the city health department would be responsible for registering legal marijuana users. But the licensing and oversight of the facilities that will grow and distribute medical cannabis would be handled by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and its enforcement arm, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. 
The prospect of having the same regulators overseeing medical marijuana and liquor stores concerns advocates who have fought to have cannabis recognized as a medical treatment, not just as a drug for recreational use.Last year, Congress removed a longstanding budget restriction that prevented city officials from implementing a medical-marijuana initiative that voters passed in 1998. City policymakers since have moved to create a tightly regulated system that would forestall future congressional interference.Wayne Turner, who co-wrote the 1998 initiative, said Friday that he was glad to see the city move forward but was "completely blindsided" by the role of alcohol regulators. "Dispensaries are the front line, and the liquor board is completely inappropriate to run this program," he said. "Are we talking about medical marijuana Jell-O shots here?"Turner's concerns were echoed, in somewhat less alarming terms, by D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), who said his "preference" would be to have the health department, which regulates pharmacies, oversee the program.But Attorney General Peter J. Nickles said Friday that the liquor regulators are most ready for the challenge of overseeing a new and potentially troublesome program. "They do a terrific job in enforcement and inspection," he said. "It was my impression in talking to them that they could do this job."Charles Brodsky, chairman of the alcohol board, said the challenge of regulating marijuana is more analogous to alcohol than to prescription drugs. "We oversee a highly regulated product in the stream of commerce, and I think we do it pretty well," he said, adding that he and other board officials had spent "hundreds of hours" researching regulations from across the country.Nickles added that having the liquor agency handle the program is the most cost-effective option because it has a corps of administrators and inspectors already in place.The program could be a major revenue generator for an ailing city budget. As many as five dispensaries would pay $10,000 per year to register; up to 10 "cultivation centers," allowed to grow 95 plants at a time, would pay $5,000 per year. In addition, certain corporate officials would be required to pay a $200 annual registration fee. Managers would pay $150 and employees $75.Yearly registration as a medical marijuana user or caregiver would cost $100; those earning less than twice the federal poverty level, or about $22,000, would pay $25 and would be eligible for subsidized marijuana on a sliding scale. Cultivators and dispensaries would be required to devote 2 percent of their revenue to those subsidies.The regulatory framework, laid out in an eight-page executive order and 87 pages of administrative rules, describes the cultivation, distribution and transportation of legal marijuana in great detail. Under the proposed regulations:-- Doctors prescribing marijuana must be in a "bona fide physician-patient relationship with the qualifying patient" and must have done a physical examination no more than 90 days before prescribing marijuana.-- Licensed users would be able to use medical marijuana only in their homes or a medical facility where they reside, if the facility approved.-- No doctor would be allowed to locate an office at a dispensary, and dispensaries would be prohibited from marketing themselves to doctors.-- Owners of marijuana businesses must be determined to be "of good character" and must not have been convicted of any felony or drug-related misdemeanor.-- Dispensaries and cultivators must obtain approval for a security plan, must install a comprehensive video recording system, and cannot locate within 300 feet of a school or recreation center or within a residential area.-- Dispensaries would be prohibited from selling alcohol or engaging in any other type of business.Much as the liquor board can immediately shutter a bar or nightclub, it would be able close a dispensary if it were causing "immediate danger to the health and safety of the public." The chief of police would be able to shut down a dispensary for 96 hours.Nickles said the regulations were written with an eye toward avoiding the problems seen in other states -- especially California, where lawmakers are trying to rein in a medical marijuana industry estimated to generate about $2 billion a year in sales. Choosing the liquor board to oversee the industry, he said, was part of that.Dan Riffle, a lobbyist who tracks national cannabis trends for the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group, called the role of a liquor board in the District's proposed framework "novel." But, he said, "I'm not so much concerned with who is doing the regulating as what's in the regulations."Turner said that when Congress is involved, the "who" matters."It gives our opponents, especially on Capitol Hill, reason to shut us down," he said. "They'll say, 'This isn't about patients, it's the liquor board doing it.' "Catania was optimistic that the program might be modified during a 45-day review period, now underway."Generally speaking, I'm pleased," he said.Source: Washington Post (DC)Author: Mike DeBonis, Washington Post Staff Writer Published: Saturday, August 7, 2010 Copyright: 2010 Washington Post Contact: letters URL: CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on August 14, 2010 at 20:05:44 PT
The Wrong Overseer for Medical Marijuana in D.C.
Sunday, August 15, 2010 Regarding the Aug. 8 Metro article "Liquor regulators may help oversee medical marijuana in the District":The Fenty administration's plan to place the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board, rather than the D.C. Health Department, in charge of the medical marijuana program is flawed and should be reconsidered. This proposal contravenes the design and intent of the law passed unanimously by the D.C. Council, and the 1998 initiative approved by 69 percent of District voters, which envisions a pharmacy model for dispensing medical marijuana to seriously and terminally ill patients.The Health Department is best suited to regulate and monitor dispensaries to ensure that qualified patients such as people living with HIV/AIDS or cancer have safe and affordable access to medical marijuana. It is also equipped to identify potentially harmful effects of medical marijuana in patients and provide referrals for substance abuse treatment if needed.The ABC Board, by contrast, regulates bars, nightclubs and liquor stores. It lacks the experience and institutional knowledge to address complex health issues and the needs of the District's patients. It is also a politically unwise choice to manage the program. When a new Congress takes office in January, medical marijuana will be a ripe target for social conservatives, and the District's law could be overturned. Having the ABC Board in charge bolsters the false accusation that D.C.'s medical marijuana effort is not about helping patients but is instead a "stalking horse" for the legalization of recreational marijuana.Wayne Turner, WashingtonThe writer is a longtime AIDS activist and was the sponsor of the 1998 medical marijuana ballot initiative.Copyright: 2010 The Washington Post CompanyURL:
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on August 08, 2010 at 19:12:53 PT
Storm Crow
I understand what you are saying. My mom was a very heavy drinker. I was told she drank thru the whole time she was carrying me. Some of the learning problems I had in school were probably because of that I was told happened by my sisters.
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Comment #7 posted by Storm Crow on August 08, 2010 at 12:30:01 PT
My parents were both alcoholics, with Mom having bi-polar on top of that. Mom drank herself almost to the point of death, then suicided as her body failed her. Dad's early death was hastened by his liver damage. I am older than Mom was when she died, and in far better health than Dad was at 63. I've spent some time in the bottle, too, but find that cannabis cancels the desire to drink for me. There is a half bottle of vodka in the kitchen. I'll have, at most, one mixed drink a week after dinner- and no more. Without cannabis, any open booze bottle around me, rapidly becomes an empty one! With cannabis, I can easily be a social drinker, not an alcoholic!Using cannabis, I am happier, more cheerful and my mood is more stable. (I'm not really bi-polar like Mom, just a bit "moody".) I create more works of art (writing, quilting, sculpting, painting) and actually do more housework (cheerfully, yet- lol) when stoned! I can hold down a job, since I don't have my totally debilitating migraines to contend with when I have cannabis. I am even considering starting up a home business!Without cannabis, I'd be crippled by frequent migraines, on SSI for them, and be an alcoholic, crabby, old lady living alone in a small trailer in a slum! THAT is the difference between cannabis and booze! 
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on August 07, 2010 at 10:37:54 PT
Storm Crow
Thank you. The 2 are so opposite one another.
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Comment #5 posted by Storm Crow on August 07, 2010 at 10:11:45 PT
Amen to that!
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Comment #4 posted by ripit on August 07, 2010 at 10:04:41 PT
 only being allowed to use in ones own
home is just wrong! it turns a patient into a prisoner!i can't go camping or even on a picnic with my family or freinds? what other medicine would ever put this kind of restriction on its use?how can they justify rules like this? 
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on August 07, 2010 at 04:01:45 PT
Paint with light
They might be looked at similarly but alcohol destroys lives and cannabis just makes life a little better.
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Comment #2 posted by Paint with light on August 06, 2010 at 22:18:50 PT
There are ways they are similar
In the eyes of the law, and a majority of the voting public, they are both seen as mind altering drugs.So they both require a strict system of controlled "their" eyes.Eventually they will "see" they are very different.Cannabis is definitely a safer non-toxic mild euphoria producing herb.Alcohol can be a dangerous, deadly, intoxicating chemical.Except in some progressive states, in the eyes of the law, cannabis is more dangerous.If it is true that ".....having the liquor agency handle the program is the most cost-effective option because it has a corps of administrators and inspectors already in place.".....then having a system that goes into place quickly will mean that many more patients will get their medicine sooner rather than later.Sure it is wanting cannabis over regulated, too restrictive to produce and market, and the producers overcharged in fees, but is a very wobbly step forward/sideways.This sounds more like some of the liquor lobbyists are pooling their resources and power and are determined to try to hang on to some of the many jobs their industry will lose when the "cannabis years" get fully into swing.I bet the whole plan was initially hatched over drinks.There will be better plans.It seems as if legal medical cannabis is being set up to fail....but it won't."We've come too far to turn back now."We not only have a foot in the door but we are starting to see the door open......slowly....but it still has a security chain on it, and a big ole' prohib looking out the peep hole.Legal like alcohol.....for a start. 
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on August 06, 2010 at 20:16:12 PT
Alcohol and Cannabis?
They are as different as night and day. 
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