Becoming a Patient in the District of Columbia

Summary of the Law

Medical cannabis (marijuana) was approved by the voters of the District of Columbia in 1998 with Initiative 59; however, Congress prevented the law from being implemented through an amendment tacked on each year to the D.C. Budget. When the prohibition was finally lifted in late 2009, the D.C Council began to draft a new bill to replace Initiative 59. In addition to the law approved by the D.C. Council in 2010 (B18-0622), the District’s medical marijuana program is also governed by title 22, subtitle C of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations.

The law and rules allow registered patients and caregivers to possess up two (2) ounces of dried medical cannabis or its equivalent in other forms (ie. edibles, tinctures, topicals, etc.).  Neither patients nor their caregivers are permitted to cultivate their own medicine and may only legally acquire medicine from the specific dispensary they are registered to. In order to become registered, a patient must receive a recommendation from physician who is licensed to practice medicine in the District. Patients and caregivers in D.C. must register to a specific dispensary and may only purchase medical cannabis products (include paraphernalia) from that dispensary. Those who wish to switch dispensary membership must submit paperwork and a fee to the D.C. Department of Health (DOH). Patients who’s income is less than 200% of the federal poverty level are eligible for reduced fees and medicine prices.

How to Become a Patient

Physician Recommendation

Only residents of the District of Columbia are eligible to become qualifying patients. To become a legally registered patient, a patient must first obtain a recommendation from a physician who is licensed to practice medicine in the District of Columbia. If a patient’s physician thinks that medical cannabis therapy is appropriate for the patient, and the patient has one of the qualifying conditions, the physician will contact DOH for a recommendation form which will be delivered to the physician.

The current eligible “qualifying medical condition” and “qualifying medical treatment” list for medical cannabis therapy in D.C. is the following:
Conditions:

  •  Cancer
  •  HIV
  •  AIDS
  •  Glaucoma

• Conditions characterized by severe and persistent muscle spasms
Treatments:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Azidothymidine or protease inhibitors
  • Radiotherapy

Additionally, the Department of Health may add conditions to the list if they meet three (3) levels of criteria – 1) chronic or long-lasting; 2) interferes with basic life function, and 3) the condition was non response to traditional therapy/surgery or medical cannabis would be a less addictive therapeutic option. Currently, no additional conditions have been added to the program.

Patient Application

Once a patient has a completed recommendation form from their physician, they must submit it along with a registration application to DOH. Patient can download application forms from the DOH website at (http://doh.dc.gov/service/medical-marijuana-program). Patients may fill out Patients who do not have access to the internet can pick up forms from DOH at (899 N. Capitol Street, NE 2nd Floor) or may visit their local D.C. Public Library. The application fee is $100 for both each patient and caregiver.

Financial Hardship

Patients who whose income is equal to or less than two hundred percent (200%) of the federal poverty level pay a reduced fee application fee of $25 for patient and caregiver. Instructions on how to demonstrate eligibility for the reduce rate is on page 3 of the patient application form.

Photo and Proof of Residency

Included with the patient application form, patients must submit two (2) recent passport-type photographs and a clear copy of U.S., state, or District government-issued photo ID as proof of identity. Additionally, D.C. patient applicants must include proof of District residency (ie. lease/rental agreement, utility bill, etc.), which is explained in detail on page 9 of the application form.

Dispensary Locations

When filling out the application form, a patient must select which of one of the District’s medical marijuana dispensaries the patient wishes to register to. Patients who wish to switch to another dispensary must fill out a new application form and pay a new application fee.

There are currently three (3) medical marijuana dispensaries in the District of Columbia. Patients must select choose one (and only one) of the following when filling out their application form:

Capital City Care
1334 N. Capitol Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20002
Metropolitan Wellness Center
409 8th Street SE, Suite 201,
Washington, D.C. 20003
Takoma Wellness Center
6925 Blair Road NW
Washington, D.C. 20012

Notes on Possession Limits

Patients must be in possession of their registration card issued by DOH in order to be legally protected. The maximum possession amount by a patient is two (2) ounces. Reciprocity does not exist for visiting patients who are not District residents and registered in the D.C. program. Patients may not cultivate their own medicine. Only medicine and paraphernalia purchased in dispensaries is considered protected by the law.
Patients may possess up to two (2) ounces of medicine or the equivalent of two (2) ounces of medicine in another form, such as edibles, topicals and tinctures. Additionally, a patient may only purchase a maximum of two (2) ounces of medicine in any 30-day period. Therefore, patients should be aware that that if they consume 2 grams of medicine per day, they will run out medicine before the 30-day period. Patients who purchase the statutory maximum will purchase 56 grams of medicine, therefore consuming 2 grams of medicine per day would run out on day 28 of the 30-day period.

Minor Patients

There is no restriction on minors being medical cannabis patients in the District of Columbia. However, the parent or legal guardian of a minor in need of medical cannabis therapy must grant informed consent and agree to serve as the minor patient’s caregiver (or designate another adult over 18 years of age to be their child’s caregiver). Minor patients are not allowed to administer their own medicine. Emancipated minors do not need a parent or guardian to grant consent or agree to be their caregiver. Parents or guardians of minor patients should use the Minor Patient Application Form on the DOH Medical Marijuana website.

Designated Caregiver

Patients are allowed to designate one person to be their “designated caregiver” to assist them with their medical cannabis therapy. Caregivers are selected when the patients fills out and submits their registration application to DOH. A caregiver must be at least 18 years-old, not have a conviction for possession or selling of a controlled substance, and may only serve one qualifying patient at any given time. Caregivers must be in possession of their DOH-issued registration card in order to receive legal protections when handling or transporting their patient’s medicine.
Caregivers have the same legal protections that patients have, except they are strictly forbidden from consuming and of their patient’s medical cannabis. Caregivers who divert medical cannabis to a party other than their patient are subject to penalties under the District’s controlled substances act.

Caregiver Application

A patient must list their caregiver on the patient application form; however, caregivers must also fill out their own application form, which is found on the DOH Medical Marijuana website. Instructions are similar to those for patient applicants, including photo and ID requirements and eligibility for reduced fees for financial hardship.

Caregiver application forms are submitted with the patient’s patient application form.

Criminal Background Check

All those apply to be a caregiver must submit to a criminal background check. There is a separate fee for the background check from the caregiver application fee. Instruction on how schedule a background check are found on page 2 of the caregiver application form.