D.C. Government Approves Four Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

WASHINGTON -- Need medical marijuana in the nation's capital? You're a step closer to being able to get it.

The District of Columbia's Department of Health announced Tuesday that four businesses may register as medical marijuana dispensaries.

The four are Herbal Alternatives (1147 20th St. NW), Metropolitan Wellness Center Corporation (409 8th St. SE), Takoma Wellness Center, Inc. (6925 Blair Rd. NW) and VentureForth, LLC DBA Center City Care (1334 North Capitol St. NW).

Dr. Mohammad Akhter, director of the D.C. Department of Health, said in a media release that he is "pleased with the progress we have made, and look forward to administering the program with the utmost security to ensure patient safety and security for all residents." The department reviewed 17 applications for dispensary licenses.

D.C. Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large), who introduced the 2010 bill allowing medical marijuana in D.C., sounded enthusiastic, if a little fed up, in a media release:

Today’s announcement of four fully-qualified dispensary applicants is yet another milestone on the path to making medical marijuana available for District residents in desperate need of the medication. Since I introduced the implementing legislation, my goal has been to provide access to the demonstrated medical benefits of the drug for sick patients and develop a system that would ensure that we did not see the types of abuses that have occurred elsewhere. Though the process has taken longer than any of us would have liked, we continue to make progress in building the infrastructure of a responsible and effective medical marijuana program.

It still could be months before marijuana is for sale. For one, the six cultivation centers previously approved for registration haven’t started growing operations. Without their marijuana supply, dispensaries have nothing to sell.

According to a spokesman for the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which oversees permitting, none of the six have applied for “certificates of occupancy” at their chosen facilities -- a final approval necessary to commence business. Those certificates require the personal approval of the city's zoning administrator, said the spokesman, Helder Gil.