Our D.C. criminal defense lawyers have been watching closely the developments out of California, Colorado and Washington State, as medical marijuana dispensaries in D.C. were gearing up for an opening following many months of legal wrangling.
Now, the very first one - Capital City Care - is set to open its doors this month, according to The Washington Post.
Dispensary operators say they have invested a great deal of funding on security cameras and other protections to minimize the chances of a robbery or other problems that might be associated with a storefront provider of medical marijuana.
Of course, the biggest problem is the fact that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, which makes no distinction or exception for medicinal purposes. The Department of Justice has been ruthless in its pursuit of charges against dispensaries in California. It's hard to imagine officials will go easy on facilities here on their own turf.
But more than simply the concern for the operators of the facility are potential issues for patients and recreational users. While federal authorities haven't historically gone after patients with any great vigor, it's certainly not unheard of. In addition to arrests for possession or cultivation, patients have faced hurdles with child custody and even their jobs as a result of their use.
In some cases, they have been arrested for DUI after the drug was found in their system, despite having a prescription and despite ample proof that unlike alcohol, presence of marijuana in the system is not a positive indicator of intoxication, due to the amount of time the drug takes to cycle through the bloodstream.
The drug-related activities of recreational users, of course, are not protected under D.C. law.
D.C. Code 48-904-01 holds that simple possession of marijuana in D.C. is a misdemeanor, carrying a first-time conviction penalty of 180 days behind bars and a $1,000 fine. Second or subsequent convictions will result in doubled penalties.
One of the better case scenarios for a first-time conviction is a withholding of adjudication in exchange for successful completion of a year-long probation stint.
But if you are consuming marijuana as a patient, you have every right to transport your medicine from your provider to your home and to consume it as directed by your physician. Our D.C. criminal defense lawyers are ready to aggressively defend your rights, should authorities attempt to circumvent them.
D.C. legalized the drug in 2010, but no dispensaries were eager to dive head-first into anything, even though there are currently 17 states that have approved the plant for medicinal consumption. We can attribute that in no small part due to the fact that more than 100 dispensaries were shuttered by federal officials last year, either through raids or forfeiture threats.
District rules will grant allowances to patients with certain conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and HIV/AIDS to purchase up to 2 ounces of the drug monthly. Prices haven't yet been set, but it's expected half an ounce will cost anywhere from $200 to $240.
In addition to marijuana, the store will also sell grams of hash, and accessories such as vaporizers, grinders and pipes. Eventually, the dispensary operator is hoping to offer marijuana-laced baked goods, such as muffins and cookies.