Medicinal Marijuana Comes to Washington DC

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Map of the U.S. showing U.S. cannabis laws.
 State with legal medical cannabis.
State with decriminalized cannabis possession laws.*
State with both medical and decriminalization laws.
 State with legalized cannabis.
The impending arrival of medical marijuana in Washington DC highlights the federal government’s mixed messages about cannabis. 

Despite the federal ban on weed, medical marijuana will be available soon at dispensaries in Washington DC. Calling the opening of DC’s dispensaries “long-delayed,” Steve Elliot of Hemp News reports that the DC Department of Health made its medical marijuana application available online earlier this week. To get approved, residents must get a recommendation from a doctor for a qualifying condition like glaucoma, cancer, or AIDS/HIV.

Though a growing number of states–and soon, our nation’s capital–have declared cannabis medically useful, the federal government continues to deny that it has medicinal value. “Regardless of state laws to the contrary, there is no such thing as ‘medical’ marijuana under Federal law,” states the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) on its website. “Marijuana continues to be a Schedule I substance meaning that it has no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

This position belies the fact that the federal government has already acknowledged the medicinal value of pot. Since the early ’70s, a handful of people have successfully defended their use of marijuana as a medical necessity, gaining federal approval to use it any time, anywhere. In the current issue of Utne Reader, Alfred Ryan Nerz tells the story of one such person, Irvin Rosenfeld. “As long as he lives and breathes and talks–and Irv likes to talk,” writes Nerz, “he will serve as a reminder that the federal government has already admitted cannabis has medicinal uses.”

Map of U.S. showing U.S. cannabis laws by Lokal_Profil, licensed under Creative Commons.

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