Business Slow During D.C.'s First 2 Days of Medical Marijuana

Dispensary hopes city will expand number of conditions that can be treated with the drug.

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Medical marijuana has arrived in the nation's capital.
Medical marijuana has arrived in the nation's capital.

The first government-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensary in Washington, D.C., opened for business Monday, but just four patients have been served so far.

"It is incredibly exciting to finally open our doors after a couple years of hard work," Scott Morgan, the communications director for Capitol City Care, told U.S. News Tuesday afternoon.

Despite the small number of customers, the dispensary - located on North Capitol Street - actually has a decent share of the market, which stands at nine individuals.

To purchase medical marijuana in D.C. patients must be legal residents of the District of Columbia, as well obtain the recommendation of their doctor. Proof of residency and the doctor's recommendation are then submitted to city's Department of Health for approval.

[READ: Legalization Advocates Hold Breath After Wash. Dispensary Raids]

Medical conditions that make a Washingtonian eligible for cannabis include cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS and severe muscle spasms.

"It's so exciting to show patients the facility for the first time," Morgan said, "[but] the program does have to grow, and grow a considerable amount to maintain the [medical marijuana] businesses."

At some point in the future, the city's health department will analyze possible changes to the initial rules, Morgan said, which his business and prospective clients are hopeful about.

"There are a number of patients with other medical conditions who have approached us," he said.

 

Two additional dispensaries are about to open in the city, and three cultivation centers - all in Northeast D.C. - are up and running. Current city policy allows approved patients to purchase two ounces of marijuana in a 30-day period.

[POLL: Majority of Americans Support Marijuana Legalization]

Although the restrictions on D.C. businesses may seem tight, the stringent policies may also keep potential problems at bay. Federal agents raided several dispensaries in Washington state last week, and prominent marijuana advocates pointed to the lack of state regulation as one possible reason for federal scrutiny.

D.C. residents approved medical marijuana by a wide margin in a 1998 referendum, with nearly 70 percent of voters giving their approval. Congress, which has authority over budget-related city policies, stalled implementation of the referendum for years.

National marijuana reform advocates were thrilled by the long-awaited dispensary opening.

"The establishment of such a model program in Congress' backyard illustrates the need for marijuana policy reform at the federal level," said Dan Riffle, deputy director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a released statement.

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