March 28, 2012

Washington DC Medical Marijuana Industry Taking Shape as City Chooses Cannabis Cultivation Finalists

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Medical cannabis will take a big step forward in Washington DC on Friday, when the Department of Health plans to unveil the final list of applicants that can register to run cultivation centers.

The announcement will pave the way for medical cannabis in DC after a series of delays that cast doubt on the future of MMJ in the city. The launch of the District’s MMJ program will create a sizable market for marijuana-related businesses and entrepreneurs looking to get involved in the medical cannabis industry.

Once the finalists for grow sites are named, they can submit additional documentation and, if everything goes as planned, get the go-ahead in coming weeks to open a cultivation center. They can then begin growing marijuana that will eventually be sold in dispensaries, which could open as early as this summer.

Officials overseeing the MMJ program will pass along their recommendations on dispensary applicants this Friday to the director of the health department, who will make a final decision by June 8 on which groups can open cannabis centers.

Still, some observers warn that more delays could be on the horizon, given that the Department of Health has repeatedly missed its own deadlines in the past.

“At this point, we are excited to finally put the long, drawn-out application process behind us and start focusing on getting patients the medicine they need,” said Jason Klein, an attorney in Washington DC who focuses on medical marijuana cases. “But be warned: DC is not ‘open for cannabusiness’ yet. There is still more work that needs to be done.  The goal is late summer 2012.”

That said, the launch of DC’s marijuana program is already creating tangible opportunities for some companies. WeGrow, a national hydroponics chain that is expanding rapidly in states with medical cannabis laws, will open its first Washington DC “super store” on Friday to meet the needs of this new market.

The company claims its 2,500-square-foot location will be the first large hydroponics store on the East Coast to “openly” focus on the medical marijuana industry.

The store will sell equipment and products needed to grow marijuana plants indoors and feature live grow room demonstrations as well as classes tied to cultivation, though it will not have any marijuana on the premises. (Dhar Mann, the founder of weGrow, recently wrote a column for MMJ Business Daily about how to make money in medical marijuana)

Washington DC will allow as many as 10 marijuana cultivation sites in the city, though officials recently voted to limit the number of grow operations in any one ward to six after residents expressed fears that MMJ businesses would overwhelm their neighborhoods.

The launch of the city’s medical marijuana program creates an ironic situation, as dispensaries will be operating in the nation’s capital even though the federal government still considers MMJ illegal and has been cracking down on the cannabis business in other states.

Under DC’s MMJ law, patients with serious medical conditions including cancer and multiple sclerosis can buy and use medical cannabis after receiving a doctor’s recommendation.

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