DC’s expansion of its medical marijuana plan has caused a shortage in many of the products to treat for pain, cancer and other medical problems.

As expected, the numbers for medical marijuana users significantly increased since the D.C. Council passed the Medical Marijuana Emergency Expansion Act of 2014 in July. As of Aug. 29, there were 1,011 registered patients , 686 males and 325 females. More than 600 new patients signed up during the first 30 days of the less restricted program. There are also 24 registered caregivers to obtain prescriptions for incapacitated patients.

“The increase is having a drastic effect on patients, like myself. I haven’t been able to get my favorite type for weeks that really does the most for the pain in my back and muscles,” said Olivia Johnson, a medical marijuana patient suffering from a degenerate spine and disc disorder.

The Council-approved Medical Marijuana Expansion Amendment of 2014 paved the way for medical marijuana cultivation centers to increase the number of plants from 95 to 500. It also allows patients and their physicians to determine if using medical marijuana is more beneficial than conventional medications for treatment, and provides a sliding scale for qualifying patients – those with income equal to or less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

“The increase in patient access has significantly increased the demand for both raw flowers and concentrates.  We’ve also seen an increase in edibles.  District Growers is currently ramping its production to accommodate demand across all types of products,” said Corey Barnette, president and CEO of District Growers, the only Black-owned medical marijuana grower and distributor on the east coast. “It is impossible to grow and harvest this quickly. We had no chance to prepare for the increase. We need more time.”

Najma Roberts, communications director for the D.C. Department of Health (DOH), said in order to be more accessible to physicians and patients, the Medical Marijuana Program built a web-based, online interface for filing forms.

“DOH continues to successfully collaborate with partners in government, stakeholders and clinicians through the scientific advisory task force,” said Roberts. “DOH will continue to proceed cautiously and deliberately to assure that patient safety is protected as the program continues to grow, while fulfilling the commitment to provide patients who are suffering with nontraditional solutions.”

In July, Barnette mentioned other hurdles. “The government must begin to allow existing ownership groups to finance expansion and operation, like any other business in the District. Lessen the burden of a lack of access to bank financing and merchant services. Prevent supply interruption and continue to supply growing demand. Support reduction in pricing,” said Barnette.

Barnette said unlike any other business, the D.C. government goes too far to restrict profit.“Absolutely nothing has changed. Unlike any other business, if a grower sells more than 10 percent of its shares, the D.C. government will shut it down. This is not how capitalism is supposed to work.”

The AFRO contacted Councilwoman Yvette Alexander’s office  for comment but did not receive a reply before deadline.

Valencia Mohammed

Special to the AFRO