Medical Marijuana Clinics a Good Fit for Lower Georgia Ave, NW?

Photo by PoPville flickr user JosephLeonardo

A reader forwards the issue as posed by an ANC commisioner from the Columbia Heights Listserv:

“Over the last several weeks ANC1A commissioners have been getting calls and emails from persons interested in opening Medical Marijuana Clinics in the area. One spot of interest was near Georgia Ave. and Kenyon. In general commissioners are very leary of having the first clinics open in our area, primarily because of fear they could have a negative impact on the current drug trade. The current drug trade involves both illegal drugs and prescription drugs, the clinics may spawn spinoff trade. Comparisons have been made to the methadone clinics which have impacted the area. There are also concerns about the clinics being overseen by ABRA instead of DOH, locations next to schools and etc..

There has not been much community dialogue on this issue.

William Jordan, ANC1A05”

ANC commissioner, 1A08, Cliff Valenti was able to send me the recommendation ANC1A passed at its last meeting.

“Regarding the location of dispensaries, ANC1A recommends that they be located in medical facilities such as
Washington Hospital Center. Section (g) of the law states that a dispensary or cultivation center shall not be located
within any residential district or within 300 feet of a preschool, primary or secondary school, or recreation center.
ANC1A believes that the radius in the law should be changed to 500 feet. Additionally, the rules need to state that
• Are not located within 500 feet of a substance abuse treatment center.
• Are not located within 500 feet of a halfway house
• Are not located within 500 feet of a day care center”

You can read the full recommendation below:

ANC1A MM Recommendation

Cliff writes:

“I knew when this law passed that Georgia Avenue would be a contender for this “experiment”, and sure enough its the first location they have chosen for consideration. I think a more stable area, like Wisconsin Avenue, would help insure success of the program and the law. There is too much addiction, criminal behavior, and mental illness on Georgia Avenue for something new and controversial. The law is written without much consideration to the Pandora’s box it opens for law enforcement.”

What do you guys think – would lower Georgia Avenue be a good spot for a medical Marijuana dispensary? If not Georgia Ave, where do you think would be a more appropriate location?

Lower Georgia Ave at Euclid looking north

69 Comment

  • Georgia ave, definitely a bad location.

  • While the clinic will draw some undesirables, it will also be under intense scrutiny by federal and local police. Which means that it has the potential to help communities that are looking for more policing. I think a transitional neighborhood is a good idea, but one that has transitioned more than Georgia Ave. Maybe the sketchy part of Adams Morgan, Florida Avenue e of 9th street.

  • If there are 5 planned dispensaries for the city then all of them shouldn’t be in more stable sections of the city, most of which are west of the park and thats pretty far for most potential patients.

    I think Adams Morgan near the section of 18th and Columbia Road is a good location.

  • smoke w33d everyday

  • Beats liquor stores, i guess.

  • What’s wrong with upper Georgia, near Allison or Kennedy?

    I wonder what the already entrenched gang-turf-pistol-heads think of all this?

    How about 14th St a bit south of Oak St? Eastern Market too. Mt. P. Kenilworth or Rhode Island. U Street.

    Please not Adams Morgan!

  • comparing a med marijuana dispensary with a methadone clinic is not a good example of clientele that will be frequenting the clinic. Also, many parts of Ga Ave are already open air heroin and crack markets, why would a controlled clinic environment for cannabis, with specific indications on who can receive the product, put any more residents at risk? Keep in mind that you can buy opiate based drugs like oxycodone and oxycontins (and worse)at your local CV and rite aid pharmacy. So…whats the difference really?

  • Georgia avenue, no way! If its for medical purposes then how about at a medical center!

  • As someone who actually lives within 300 feet of lower Georgia Avenue (Georgia and Lamont) I think this is a great idea. Here’s why:

    1. More marijuana is a good thing for the public. Potheads don’t shoot anyone. More weed, lower price, less incentives to sell weed, etc. (I know it’s just for patients but everyone seems worried it’ll get into healthy people’s hands. I believe that would be a more positive thing than a lot of people recognize).

    2. It takes up an empty storefront.

    3. CLEARLY it will be under heavy scrutiny.

    4. You’d have to be STUPID to not be able to buy weed on lower Georgia Avenue already. I’m looking at you “African stores” 😉

    5. Medical Marijuana is hip. It’s progressive. It’s cool. And it makes a lot of sense. I actually think it fits the character of our neighborhood pretty well. I would be proud to have such an establishment in my neighborhood, provided that they held themselves to high standards.

    6. What the hell is it with DC and the public telling businesspeople what they can do with their property? It’s just starting to sadden me. Someone please attempt to convince a reasonable skeptic (me) how this establishment will hurt ANYONE provided they keep bankers hours, follow all laws, and keep a tidy storefront.

    Thanks for hearing me out.

    • I guess I’m stupid

    • 1) Wrong: middle class suburban pot heads don’t shoot anybody. There are also plenty of pot heads who are violent criminals. Seems likely that this pot store will probably have some of both.

      2) Point yielded. Although it might be better to have the space empty remain empty.

      3) Really? That’s not what happened in California. Who’s to say that it will here? And scrutiny by home? Other drug dealers who are afraid of losing their turf?

      4) Exactly. We don’t need another dealer, legal or illegal. Also, I’m worried about the intersection of the legal and illegal markets. Could get ugly. By ‘ugly’ I mean bullet-prone.

      5) I think the reality of these places is going to be about as ‘hip’ as a check-cashing place or a liquor store, bringing in a similar clientele. Not really the direction I want the neighborhood to head in. I’m not opposed to medical marijuana on principle, but I agree with the other posters that the first dispensaries ought to be in established neighborhoods better equipped to handle any difficulties that come with it.

      6) DC–and pretty much every jurisdiction in the country–tells people what they can and can’t do with their property all the time. We call this process ‘zoning’. Nothing new here if the neighborhood opposed this kind of business.

      • You can’t compare the California experience to DC. The District passed a very strict law that limits the number of dispensaries, which was smart. California didn’t, and it was only after things got completely out of hand that the LA city council took steps to rein things in. Same in Colorado — pot dispensaries are everywhere in Denver.

        Regardless, I agree that these places should be in more stable neighbprhoods such as Dupont Circle and Capitol Hill.

  • Hasn’t California made some major strides towards de facto legalization in establishment of these stores, err, clinics?

    Heroin and methadone users are very different from pot smokers. These are people who left their kids, jobs, etc, to pursue an abject life switching between H when they can get it, and methadone and blood thinners when they can’t. This isn’t going to have the same negative effect on a neighborhood.

    If anything, I think semi legal weed will lower the prevalence of drug related crime in the area, if but slightly. Dealers would certainly be making less, and I’d love to see them put out of business. I care way more about less crime than I do about whether my neighbor is rolling a joint right now.

  • Right on. The clientele that purchase from a clinic is much different from those that buy on the street. Though I guess this depends on how difficult it will be to get a prescription. But every indication is that it will not be easy and if you’re looking for a cheap dimebag the street is the way to go. I suspect that there would be some interesting stores near the clinic – smoothie shops, home decoration stores, etc.

  • So how are the cheesesteaks at Labamba Sub Shop? Okay or just meh?

  • No on medical marijuana clinic for lower GA Avenue. How about locating it in SE DC or what about Dupont or Georgetown or better yet, Arlington or Alexandria VA. Can’t this area attract businesses that will be utilized by a larger portion of the area’s population? How about a gym or decent restaurants or retail? Is that the best they can come up with?!

  • Look at what “medical” marijuana has done for Oakland and Vancouver, you have a thriving “XX-sterdam” tourist and commercial district, with spinoff coffeeshops and internet cafes, I’d love to see ice cream/dessert shops (you know it!), grower’s supply, and how about comic book stores, record stores, head shops, gift shops, an Apple store too(!) Let’s not kid ourselves that “prescriptions” will be difficult to get. Frankly anything would be better than the anemic wish-we-were-thriving commerce Georgia Avenue has now. Wisconsin Avenue does not need the help. Let’s not be hypocrits, if you don’t like it why did you let it get voted it in?

  • Sounds colossally stupid, but I’d be happy to support it if it puts the local dealers out of business. The violence and corruption associated with the illegal drug trade has got to be addressed economically and medically.

    The problem isn’t with middle class folks who are paying the bills and minding their own business. The problem is further institutionalizing a culture of not taking strident steps to save money and work hard among the poor. I know that may sound mean hearted, but I support gov’t support to individuals, just not support as the major economic driver of the city.

    • What do you see as this “institutionalized culture” and how would that relate to medical marijuana dispensaries? Or do you see public housing as part of this culture? What is the city and/or the poor population doing that creates a culture of not saving money and not working hard?

  • I wonder if medical marijuana dispensaries would become targets of crime.

    • They would, just like any other establishment that carries items of value. Every business is a target of crime. A lot of clinincs in CA, at least in LA, have heavy security like high end diamond stores

  • put it next to Lafayette Elementary.

  • If the law will stipulate a dispensary may not be located within 500 ft. of a school, daycare, etc. That’s going to limit options. There are daycares and schools peppered along Georgia Ave. and surrounding blocks. Also wonder about HU’s position on having a dispensary near their campus.

  • Kenilworth ave might work since its an industrial area for the most part and its accessible via Deanwood station.

  • Not a good idea. Drug dealers will set up shop near these places so they can sell other drugs or provide for people who get turned away from the head shop.

  • I think there’s a lot of conflating the illegal drug trade and medical marijuana here. These places will be largely discreet. The won’t be related to illegal drug dealing. If someone has taken the time to get a prescription from an MD, then getting it filled at a dispensary will be an equally civilized process for that person. The law on the books is strict, and there won’t be an Oaksterdam in DC any time soon.

    I think there could be crime associated with these places. People walking out are going to have high-grade marijuana on them. Not only that, dispensaries are going to have to deal in the wholesale trade of marijuana. These transactions are going to be ripe for enterprising criminals.

    Lower Georgia Ave seems as good a place as any.

    • You don’t need a prescription for MM! It is not prescribed!

      • I don’t think that’s entirely true. It is legalized to treat specific medical conditions. You would need to have proof of this condition to acquire the drug, so in essence, you need a prescription.

        • No, you need a recommendation, not a prescription. You can get it for headaches and sleeplessness. Its a pretty loosely written law.

          • You can get it for just about anything. Anixety is a popular condition. Especially since I get real anxious when I don’t get my pot.

            Downside: there ain’t nothing stopping your employer, i.e. for a lot of DC residents The G, from kicking you to the curb for using your “medicine”.

      • Yes, its prescribed, hence the clinics. You need a doctor to prescribe it for you, and the current pending legislation dictates a range of applicable conditions. It’s just like a normal pharmaceutical, though its dispensed via another outlet as no national pharmacy will touch it for obvious reasons.

        Now, you can of course buy it without a prescription from any of the thousands of streets dealers that work DC or the more clandestine house-call dealers.

        My guess is a weed dispensary in DC will have as much impact on the DC weed culture as the gun ban does on the gun culture. Ie, it’ll be moot outside a few rarified circles but an opportunity for our elected officials to get themselves on TV and take part in a national dialogue while ignoring the major needs of the city they govern.

  • If it’s “medical” marihuana, why don’t put it at hospitals around the city (or at least near them), what about GW hospital, or Washington Hospital? its suspicious to me why the proposal of Georgia Avenue, an area where the crime and drug dealing and thug violence have always existed and on the rise.

    • Or pharmacies. But I doubt hospitals want the additional responsibility and overhead of managing this, just like they typically do not act as pharmacies for other drugs – though some have pharmacies. Pharmacies seem like a good choice, but again, they might not want the overhead required to meet all the regulations and laws. A licensed dispensary, I imagine, would be allowed to grow and distribute the marijuana while conforming to specific governmental regulations regarding both.

    • Duc, you don’t need to run to a hospital every time you need any other prescribed drug. that is unnecessarily burdensome.

    • Retail pharmacies are highly regulated by the DEA. They sell controlled substances only so long as they’re in strict accordance with federal guidelines, contained in both statutes and regulations.

      The federal government classifies marijuana as a CI stubstance, meaning that it’s illegal for a pharmacy to dispense. So as long as a pharmacy wants to sell Ritalin or Percocet (CII drugs) or even a CV cough syrup, they won’t be able to violate federal law by selling marijuana.

      If the FDA approves marijuana and turns it into a CII substance, things could change. This is extraordinarily unlikely, since the FDA has approved no medicine for smoking and Marinol, which contains the active ingredient in marijuana, has already been approved and is sold every day.

      So, in short, these dispensaries are a necessary part of any medical marijuana scheme so long as federal law doesn’t change.

  • honest question… what exactly happens to the illegal drug trade when one of these places moves in?

    prices go down? demand goes down? does that mean we have more desperate/struggling dealers? less dealers?

    • Why would it be affected at all? This is “medical” dispensaries. Typical users would not be able to acquire their product from these locations.

  • What cracks me up is the pearl-clutching over 300 feet versus 500 feet. Like the bad element would go “500 feet?? Too far.”

  • Just let me know where they open up, so I can open up a cheetos and fries shop next door

  • DC is really trying to be like a 3rd wold country!

  • “Doc, I’m just not feeling creative today. I need an imagination booster…”

  • “If not Georgia Ave, where do you think would be a more appropriate location?”

    300 Indiana Ave NW.

  • There is already a “clinic” on every block along Georgia avenue. Adding dispensaries in this area will not aid folks having a hard time getting access to their “medicine” – they have no problem buying marijuana in this area today. I completely agree that these dispensaries will only encourage more crime and predict that both they and their clientele will be frequently robbed at gunpoint by the competition. NIMBY.

  • Wisconsin Ave over Georgia? You just want to ship the supposed crime to the white people where it’s going to get taken care of.

  • I don’t see any evidence that people buying at dispensaries in other states are either getting robbed, increasing the local crime rate, or going down the block to buy something else from Drug Dealer Dude.

  • The entire issue of ‘medical marijuana’ is a farce. The most rational and logical policy is outright legalization of cannabis. Of course, that is not politically tenable so we get half-measures like this.

    Mainstream perceptions about cannabis and the individuals who appreciate it’s virtues are largely inaccurate and unfounded. Most people have no conception of what marijuana is, and what – if any – ‘danger’ it poses to society.

    The reality is that cannabis itself is generally harmless. The THC in cannabis has roughly the same psychological dependency risks as caffeine. It is far less addictive than either alcohol or nicotine. It is physically impossible to overdose on THC; it can safely be said that no one in history has ever died from THC overdose. Some studies have drawn correlations between long-term cannabis use and schizophrenia in later life.

    Countries with more relaxed drug policies (like the Netherlands) have lower incidences of cannabis use per capita than the United States.

    Who uses cannabis? Everyone – people from all walks of life. Police, politicians, doctors, teachers, clergy, artists, musicians, etc. Carl Sagan was a huge fan of cannabis. People all over the world enjoy using it.

    If history teaches us anything, it is that the will of the people will win out. That is, individuals will always find a way to obtain items or goods that they want.

    This was certainly true during the alcohol prohibition of the 1920s. Obviously people were not going to stop drinking booze just because someone in government said so. The result was the rise of organized crime and highest percentage of criminal activity among the public in American history.

    Prohibition of cannabis has done basically the same thing. It has empowered gangs to provide the only access to something that the people want. Scarcity drives up the price and only makes gangs stronger. Law-abiding cannabis users are made criminals by legislative fiat. Government spends billions of dollars fighting crime that arises as a result of drug criminalization.

    The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world per capita, as well as the greatest number of inmates of any country in absolute numbers. This is largely a result of the drug laws.

    I think the medical marijuana clinic idea is both good and bad. It is good because it is a small move in the right direction. It is a small increase in personal liberty. It will probably result in less of the cannabis trade being conducted by gangs.

    At the same time, the D.C. regulation is pretty poorly written and I think implementation will be equally poor. As I understand it, it is not clear where the cannabis will be grown and who will supply it. Also, the method of obtaining a prescription/recommendation/whatever appears to be a joke.

    As I see it, the ideal solution to the ‘problem’ of drugs is outright legalization. Most European countries have moved to a model where possession of a small number of cannabis plants is permissible. So, cannabis users can grow their own cannabis for personal consumption. Law-abiding citizens need no longer support gangs to obtain their cannabis. Instead of spending money prosecuting marijuana users and locking up 3% of the population, governments in those countries spend that money on treatment programs for hard drug users.

    If cannabis consumption and cultivation are legalized outright, the marijuana trade will certainly suffer as a result. If individuals can grow their own supply in a basement or closet, they will have no need to patronize the black market or support illegal activity. Less crime, fewer prosecutions, less money spent – in all, a much better scenario.

  • I was in CA earlier this year. Interestingly enough, street level dealers are essentially operating as delivery men. Dealers simply get a prescription and charged what amounts to the cost of delivery as well as a small markup.

    In other words, to get rid of drug dealing on the street, it might be wise to give everyone of a certain age access to buy marijuana. That would reduce the delivery markup to near zero for street level dealers.

  • “The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world per capita, as well as the greatest number of inmates of any country in absolute numbers. This is largely a result of the drug laws.”

    While this sort of statement is often repeated it’s not entirely accurate and the impact of marijuana, specifically, on the prison population is not nearly as significant as other drug trafficking offenses. Most prisoners are in state correctional facilities and the nationwide percentage of individuals in for drugs-related crime varies a lot state-to-state from 15-25%. Truly high numbers in some cases, but releasing every drug criminal tomorrow hardly solves the prison population problem. Also, although the numbers are a bit dated, the ONDCP reported in 1998 that only 2.5% of state convictions (overall, not just for drug crime) were related to marijuana trafficking. So legalizing pot but not coke and meth won’t get you significantly reduced numbers.

    The numbers are more compelling in BOP (federal) custody where about 50% of the offenders are inside for drug trafficking — but BOP is a much smaller population compared to the states (~210K versus 2.3MM).

    Further, when you invoke “drug laws” the perception is that this includes a lot of offenders who were just using. It doesn’t.

    Those incarcerated are overwhelmingly drug trafficking offenders and largely cocaine and meth traffickers. Stiff penalties for cocaine and meth, including mandatory penalties in the feds and in some states, drive the incarceration numbers. The ganja traffickers who make up 1/4 of the federal docket only receive sentences approximately 1/3 as severe as cocaine and meth (30-odd months on average to over 110 months and 90 months respectively). It’s also worth noting that the federal drug trafficking population includes 45% who have criminal histories prior to their current trafficking charge, 30% who are not citizens, and about 20% who used a weapon in their offense (cocaine only offense have a weapon 27% of the time).

    While legalizing pot to reduce incaceration is a compelling slogan, looking at the data behind who gets sentenced for what shows that it won’t slow down the train much even if pot is legal. And legalizing all drugs is a horse of a different color, I think we can all agree.

    We can lament about the continued high rate of incarceration and say we repeal all drug laws tomorrow; are you gonna let the jail doors swing wide to those traffickers inside now? Wouldn’t seem fair not to, would it? How comfortable is everyone letting 600,000 to 700,000 convicted drug traffickers out of custody tomorrow – half of which having a criminal history before their current offense? While the average drug trafficking offender is no Pablo Escobar, the data shows that neither is he a John Sinclair.

    • “The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world per capita, as well as the greatest number of inmates of any country in absolute numbers. This is largely a result of the drug laws.”

      While this sort of statement is often repeated it’s not entirely accurate and the impact of marijuana, specifically, on the prison population is not nearly as significant as other drug trafficking offenses

      That’s why I said ‘drug laws’ and not ‘marijuana laws’. I meant it in the general sense. The United States has more inmates than any other nation on Earth. The United States also has the highest incarceration rate on Earth. These are facts. Prohibition of any consumable that people want is going to lead to crime. That is true of every drug whether it be alcohol, cannabis, or heroin.

      And I’m not sure that hard drugs should necessarily remain illegal. I believe in liberty. It’s not for me to say what someone should or should not be putting in his or her body. That is a personal decision. The only point at which society should become involved is when harm is being done to some other person (i.e. children, spouse) as a result. Then, society can intervene. If a person wants to grow a few pot plants in the back yard and consume them without another human every knowing, that’s fine with me.

      Our society coddles us and assumes the individual is not capable of reflective thought and self determination. I submit that we are more capable of making our own choices than some entities in politics would have us believe. Certainly I can make my own rational decisions. Despite cigarettes being legal, I have never smoked one. Making heroin legal would not make me want to try it (I know that anecdotal evidence has shown nicotine to be as addictive as heroin). However, I don’t want to make nicotine illegal. Just because I don’t care for it doesn’t mean I want to ruin it for others.

      • Whoops, forgot the /i

      • You failed to answer any of the questions. Even if all drug trafficking offenses were wiped from the books tomorrow (highly unlikely), that’s only 12-15% of the population of some state prison systems. Hardly a complete answer.

        Also, setting aside the wildly optimistic notion that complete abrogation of drug trafficking offenses would lead to less violence and associated public safety risks — even though the experiences in California, Humboldt County in particular, regarding marijuana quasi-legalization don’t paint a rosy picture — what about the up to ~650,000 people, many with violent criminal histories, that are currently incarcerated for drug trafficking? Void their convictions and release them or keep them in jail to rot? The consistent opinion would be to release them. Since their convictions would be void there would be no way to keep them under supervision of any sort.

        Good luck with that.

        All I’m saying is that pie-in-the-sky statements about legalization make the speaker feel good, whether they are libertarians or pot-smoking progressives, but the are often fact-deprived observations.

        • Also, to be fair, there is incremental change that should be made (and, in fact, with the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, is being made). Long mandatories may be on their way out and that will shrink future increases. But the notion of repealing drug trafficking laws is not well thought out.

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