Medicinal Cannabis Use Approved in French Polynesia
by Bethan Rose
On July 6, 2022, Washington, D.C. implemented a revolutionary emergency amendment to its medical cannabis program.
The Medical Marijuana Self-Certification Temporary Amendment Act of 2022 currently permits D.C. residents over the age of 21 to self-certify their intent to use cannabis for medical purposes when applying for D.C.’s Medical Cannabis Program. The act expands existing D.C. law—specifically, the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1999—for a total of 225 days. Without new emergency legislation or more permanent action, the program expansion will expire on Feb. 16, 2023.
These changes to D.C.’s medical cannabis program come on the heels of a previously enacted emergency amendment focused on senior citizens: The Medical Marijuana Patient Access Extension Emergency Amendment Act of 2022 allowed D.C. residents ages 65+ to self-certify in the same fashion. This 90-day amendment expired in May 2022; however, seniors retain the self-certification option through the emergency law now in effect.
Lawmakers’ goal behind both pieces of emergency legislation has been to encourage participation in D.C.’s safe and regulated cannabis market, minimize D.C.’s notoriously unregulated “gifting” market, and advance licensed cannabis operators. Pushing D.C.’s medical program to its limits is viewed as a stopgap until federal reform enables D.C. to enact a standard adult-use program.
Washington, D.C. residents ages 21 and over no longer require a healthcare provider to recommend certification for a medical cannabis card. Rather, 21+ residents applying for medical program benefits may self-certify their intent to use cannabis from a licensed dispensary for medical purposes.
The online Adult Patient Application has been tweaked to include a new “Self-Certification” option in the drop-down menu where applicants select a certification type. Selecting this option removes all additional fields required for certification via healthcare provider. Applicants are still required to upload a 2-inch by 2-inch photo, a copy of their government ID, and proof of D.C. residency.
To encourage participation, the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), which regulates D.C.’s Medical Cannabis Program, has made all registrations 100% free through Aug. 18, 2022. Following Aug. 18, standard registration fees will return to $100 for new and renewed registrations (or $25 for “Reduced Fee Applicants”).
According to the ABRA:
“Medical cannabis patients, including non-residents extended reciprocity, may purchase up to eight (8) ounces of cannabis within a rolling 30-day period and possess up to two (2) ounces at any time. Allowed formats include flowers, concentrates, edibles, transdermal products, seeds, and seedlings.”
Those who are not D.C. residents but do hold a valid medical cannabis card in the states listed below may also purchase medical cannabis from D.C.’s licensed dispensaries:
While most spectators are ogling this 21+ amendment as a clever adult-use workaround, we cannot overlook the law’s incredible impact on the patients whose needs have driven medical legalization across the United States.
For centuries, individuals have gravitated toward the medical benefits of cannabis to treat a staggering breadth of afflictions. Now, in 2022, Americans are just reaching a tipping point in the nation’s cultural recovery from “Reefer Madness” and the failed war on drugs—a tipping point that, in part, represents allowing patients the autonomy to choose medical cannabis treatment and access to regulated cannabis as a safe alternative to potentially problematic pharmaceuticals.
The majority of America’s state medical cannabis programs still maintain a stringent list of qualifying diagnoses for which taxpaying residents are authorized to treat symptoms with regulated, quality-controlled cannabis. Generally speaking, government legislators and regulators must be convinced that each individual diagnosis is sufficiently widespread and extreme enough to deserve medical cannabis rights. The process of getting a diagnosis “qualified” may include submitting complex legal forms, applications, and appeals, testifying before committees (if one’s condition allows), building grassroots support, and—well—often being denied.
Although we know it was not D.C. lawmakers’ primary focus, granting self-certification power to patients takes the discretional authority and legal legwork out of state representatives’ hands to enable or prohibit an individual from taking advantage of a low-risk treatment they have reason to believe will alleviate their symptoms. This is particularly significant because, as well-intentioned as any single representative may be, amending the list of qualifying diagnoses may not be a top priority among the myriad of pressing issues that plague state legislators and regulators.
Some might ask: “Well, if someone who wants to use cannabis for a medical purpose lives in a region with a regulated adult-use cannabis program—aren’t they just fine?”
Possibly. Those who can afford to sacrifice medical program benefits to consistently access medical cannabis treatment will be fine. But the reality is that those who choose cannabis for medical purposes and purchase it through an adult-use program miss out on benefits designed for patient accessibility and safety.
To use Illinois as an example, someone who purchases cannabis for medical purposes through the state’s adult-use program will sacrifice:
Illinois being a middle-of-the-road case study, it is clear that:
One can only hope that in future legislation, studies based on the results of D.C.’s experimental, broad-access approach will be balanced with those of more highly regulated medical markets like Illinois (noting that highly regulated programs were once viewed as required by Obama-era Cole Memo standards that have since been repealed by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions). The perfect medical cannabis program can likely be found somewhere near the center of this spectrum.
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