Yesterday the DC City Council approved some emergency legislation to restrict how much marijuana for medical use will be allowed in each of the city’s eight wards. The council was getting pressure from Northeast Residents who feared that Ward 5 would have the concentration of large indoor marijuana growing operations. After some public debate in the meeting last night, the council decided to put a cap on the number of cultivation centers that would be allowed to be in any one ward up to six. Those cultivation centers would be allowed to grow up to 95 plants each.
Only 10 cultivations centers can open city-wide. They will not be allowed to be withing 300 feet of a school or recreation center and the Office of Zoning has now added that they will only be allowed in areas that are designed for light manufacturing. It is these restrictions that are driving applicants to want to base growing operations in the city’s 5th Ward, historically the center of the city’s industrial base.
The city has received 28 applications for a medical marijuana cultivation center and out of those, 26 of the applicants want to establish a business in Ward 5. So far, seven of those have gotten favorable recommendations from the Department of Health, and it just so happens that six of those are in Ward 5. That area of the city has seen a recent boom in adult entertainment businesses, and even a waste transfer station and to residents, they say a dumping ground because of the zoning issues in all the other parts of the city.
Ward 5 activists were at the meeting and supported the emergency legislation. More restrictive measures were voted down when one council member stood up and said that these layers and layers of restrictions would make medical marijuana too difficult to obtain. One compromise that was voted on in the final minutes of the meeting last night was to dictate that only one medical marijuana distribution could exist in any ward with more than five cultivations centers, a compromise with Ward 5 neighborhood advisory members, although they said they wanted none.
Medical providers say the neighborhoods concerns are overblown, and will find they are not the same kind of business as a strip club or liquor store. But as Washington DC moves slowly and cautiously forward to implement their program (it was actually voted on in 1998, and enacted finally in May of 2010), some wonder if any distribution or cultivation centers will ever open in the Federal Government’s back yard. It seems that dispensaries and cultivations centers have been trying the patience of the Feds as they crack down in medical marijuana states like Colorado and California. It will be interesting to see how they treat dispensaries operating a short trip away from the DEA headquarters.