The D.C. Council voted today to limit the number of medical marijuana centers that can operate in one ward.
The action came after a News4 Investigation found the vast majority of medical marijuana cultivation centers applied to open up shop in Ward 5.
“I would like to see them located in other areas than Ward 5,” said Jacqueline Manning. The chair of ANC 5B, Manning first learned how many cultivation centers wanted to locate in her neighborhood after News 4 made maps of the locations.
"We're looking at our ward getting better,” she said. “Moving forward. Not being a dumping ground."
After our story aired, Manning and her neighbors pushed the D.C. Council to introduce an emergency bill limiting the number of medical marijuana cultivation centers and eliminating dispensaries altogether in Ward 5.
But when At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange introduced the bill today, he quickly faced significant opposition from other members.
At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson worried the emergency bill would gut the entire program. "I think it could just render the program impossible because there won't be enough cultivation centers," he said.
Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells expressed concern about the timing of the legislation. The D.C. Department of Health just whittled down the list of applicants and is close to making a final decision.
“I'm very frustrated that we're at this point of an emergency,” Wells said. “This bill was passed many years ago and we're right here at the eleventh hour and now it’s to be changed up."
Realizing he didn't have the votes and the bill was going to die, Orange shot back.
"The councilmembers that are speaking out about this don't live in Ward 5; you don't have to deal with it!" He exclaimed. “Don't tell the citizens of Ward 5 that this isn't an emergency!"
But a last minute compromise between Orange and At-Large Councilmember David Catania, who heads the Committee on Health, saved the bill.
Under the new law, no more than six cultivation centers can be licensed in one ward. If a ward ends up with five or more, there can only be one dispensary in that ward.
Manning said it wasn’t quite what she had hoped for.
"It's a step," she said. "It's a step forward but not a good step. I'm sure the community will be out again, and they're going to make sure all the councilmembers at large will be at the meeting because this is not a good opportunity for the community right now."
The city still hasn't decided who will get any of the licenses after whittling down the list of cultivation center applicants from almost two dozen.