Med­i­cal mar­i­juana site is­sue weighed

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

D.C. Coun­cil mem­bers hope a med­i­cal mar­i­juana site pro­posed in Ward 7 will not harm long-term de­vel­op­ment in the area. But they will not bar the pro­posed fa­cil­ity from open­ing if it jeop­ar­dizes the in­tegrity of the city’s tightly reg­u­lated — yet un­fin­ished — pro­gram to aid the sick and dy­ing.

Coun­cil mem­ber Yvette M. Alexan­der, Ward 7 Demo­crat, said she sup­ports the med­i­cal mar­i­juana pro­gram, but her con­stituents are con­cerned that a cul­ti­va­tion cen­ter await­ing final ap­proval could ham­per threeto five-year plans for re­tail and res­i­den­tial projects near Ben­ning Road and Min­nesota Av­enue North­east.

Ex­ec­u­tives for the group propos­ing the Ward 7 cul­ti­va­tion cen­ter, Phyto Man­age­ment, said they do not want to stand in the way of the neigh­bor­hood’s plans, but they like their lo­ca­tion and are not per­mit­ted to move their pro­posed site un­der rules set by the D.C. Depart­ment of Health.

Coun­cil Chair­man Kwame R. Brown asked Ms. Alexan­der to hold off on her leg­isla­tive ef­fort to ban Phyto from us­ing the site, af­ter city law­mak­ers Tues­day de­bated po­ten­tial com­pro­mises that could sat­isfy all of the par­ties in­volved.

Coun­cil mem­ber David A. Cata­nia, at-large in­de­pen­dent, of­fered an amend­ment that would al­low ap­pli­cants in the city’s med­i­cal-mar­i­juana pro­gram to amend the lo­ca­tion of their cul­ti­va­tion cen­ter or dis­pen­sary with­out jeop­ar­diz­ing their pro­pos­als be­fore the city’s health depart­ment.

Tar­get­ing a sin­gle lo­ca­tion could open a “Pan­dora’s box” of ob­jec­tions to any num­ber of mar­i­juana-re­lated lo­ca­tions, he said.

“I think that is an in­vi­ta­tion to mis­chief,” he said, adding the sit­u­a­tion will be­come more complicated when dis­pen­sary ap­pli­ca­tions are vet­ted in com­ing weeks.

Ms. Alexan­der said Mr. Cata­nia’s pro­posal was not force­ful enough be­cause it did not bar Phyto from us­ing its Ben­ning Road lo­ca­tion.

Coun­cil mem­ber Phil Men­del­son, at-large Demo­crat, said tar­get­ing one site is a bad idea.

“That’s un­fair to the process and also desta­bi­liz­ing,” he said. “We don’t con­trol zon­ing.”

The coun­cil’s de­lib­er­a­tion comes seven weeks af­ter it de­cided to cap the num­ber of med­i­cal mar­i­juana fa­cil­i­ties in each of the city’s wards, fol­low­ing ob­jec­tions by Ward 5 res­i­dents to ex­ces­sive clus­ter­ing of cul­ti­va­tion cen­ters pro­posed for their Ivy City neigh­bor­hood.

City law­mak­ers do not want to turn the med­i­cal mar­i­juana ini­tia­tive on its head through fur­ther ac­tion be­cause the pro­gram should be op­er­a­tional by midyear, af­ter more than a decade of con­gres­sional in­ter­fer­ence and painstak­ing rule-mak­ing.

Coun­cil mem­ber Vin­cent B. Orange, at-large Demo­crat who led the Ward 5 ini­tia­tive, urged a Solomonic ap­proach on the Ward 7 is­sue.

“Let’s try to work out some type of com­pro­mise here and now,” he said.

But Mr. Brown said the best so­lu­tion would be to ham­mer out a deal ahead of the coun­cil’s next leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

Ms. Alexan­der agreed and re­it­er­ated her sup­port for par­tic­i­pants in the pro­gram.

“I don’t want to start tar­get­ing lo­ca­tions,” she said. “I’m sure we can work it out.”

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