Now that the District has given its nod to the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, for those individuals that stand to benefit there’s one more hurdle to overcome: the ability to grow the drug in their own back yards.

Under the new law which passed in January – more than 10 years after District residents voted overwhelmingly in its favor – patients will be able to go to a clinic or a doctor’s office for their dosages.

But given the example set by 13 of the 14 states that allow patients the convenience of having the drug within arm’s reach, the District seems poised to fall in line.

“The District is pushing in that direction,” said Ben Young, spokesman for At-large Councilman David Catania, who heads the governing body’s health committee. “It would be the 14th to allow people to grow the drug at home for medicinal purposes if legislation is enacted.”

If a bill passes, patients would likely be limited to two plants per residence.?“The public sentiment is certainly for the use of medical marijuana . . . There are varying opinions on how best to do that and to know what precautions we should take,” said Young. “Right now, the Council is trying to come up with a system of regulations that makes sense and which won’t result in some of the same problems they’ve had in Los Angeles.”

Concerns there, according to Young, involve insufficient oversight of and an excess of marijuana dispensaries.
“So the Council legislation which was marked up calls for five dispensaries in the city,” Young said.

Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham does not approve of the home-grown model.

“No we don’t want that,” Graham said. “What we’re planning are some very, very strict controls over the production and distribution there will be no legal home-growing.”
Graham said that while he and his peers have yet to determine how to handle dispensing, they are pondering locations throughout the city that will be tightly controlled and regulated.

“I think this has to be because it could get out of hand in just seconds,” Graham said, adding that while he didn’t “support the marijuana trade in the District of Columbia,” he supports it being prescribed by a physician – and under detailed circumstances.

Alluding to patients in states that allow home cultivation, Mike Meno, spokesman for the District-based Marijuana Policy Project, said they have been designated as qualified patients by the express recommendation of a doctor.

“It’s important to use the word ‘recommendation,’” Meno said, “because of marijuana’s status under federal law, doctors can’t write prescriptions. But in states that have medical marijuana law, they can write a recommendation.”

Meno added that states which provide the allowance typically let patients grow a certain amount for their own use, and that in doing so, they can also designate a caregiver – usually a friend or relative, ?if you’re talking about a really sick person – to grow if for them.