The D.C. Council has voted to allow adults 21 and older to self-certify their eligibility for medical cannabis without needing a healthcare practitioner's recommendation.
The bill expands access to medical cannabis by easing the logistical burden of becoming a medical cannabis patient, the D.C. Cannabis Trade Association (DCTA) said. The group added that bypassing the recommendation process will allow patients to save time and money since many of these types of appointments are not covered by insurance.
The bill also expedites the medical cannabis card process to one day if the patient selects to visit ABRA’s (Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration) office located at 2000 14th Street, NW.
“By allowing residents 21+ to self-certify as medical cannabis patients, access to safe and legal medical cannabis will expand and residents will hopefully be deterred from obtaining potentially harmful 'street' cannabis from illegal sources,” said Linda Mercado Greene, Chair of the DCTA. “It is absolutely critical to have a safe, legal cannabis market so that those who use cannabis for therapeutic purposes are able to safely and reliably access their medicine.”
Currently, ABRA is waiving registration fees through August 18, 2022, meaning no out-of-pocket cost for patients. The program allows patients to purchase up to two ounces and offers reciprocity for patients registered in 38 other states.
This bill was considered on an emergency basis and will take effect immediately, pending mayoral review. Council Member Mary Cheh sponsored the bill and Kenyan McDuffie co-sponsored.
The bill specifically called out gray markets, or illegal cannabis gifting stores, as a popular option for consumers seeking medical cannabis since they don't require an authorized practitioner's license from customers.
"The gray market is estimated to log a staggering $600 million in sales 60 annually, sapping patients from legal businesses; ABRA reports that the number of patients purchasing marijuana from medical dispensaries in the District has been in decline since December 2021," the bill said.