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Medical Marijuana Off to Slow Start in DC

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WASHINGTON — In the 3 months since medical marijuana has been available in the District of Columbia, just 59 patients have registered to buy it, and advocates say that’s because of the city’s strict rules for use of the drug.

City health officials provided statistics about medical marijuana use at a D.C. Council hearing on Monday. Just over half of those who’ve signed up to use medical marijuana have HIV or AIDS, said Feseha Woldu, senior deputy director of the Health Regulation and Licensing Administration.

The district allows medical marijuana use only for patients with HIV or AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and conditions like multiple sclerosis that cause severe muscle spasms.

People who attempt to obtain the drug must go through a lengthy application process and are warned that the purchases remain illegal under federal law. Because there are so few patients, the city’s marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries are losing money, according to testimony.

Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn, who operates the Takoma Wellness Center dispensary, said doctors are fearful of breaking the law and that not enough “understand the benefits of medical marijuana.”

Advocates argued that the list of ailments should be expanded or eliminated altogether, allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana as they see fit. Councilmember Yvette Alexander, who chairs the council’s health committee, said she was open to considering adding more ailments to the list.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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