Not Much Competition Yet in D.C. Medical Marijuana Program

2011_0518_joint.jpg
Photo used under a Creative Commons license with Torben Bjørn Hansen.

Those jumping into the medical marijuana business in the District include both individuals and organizations, seasoned professionals and budding entrepreneurs. But so far, there aren’t that many of them.

To date, nine letters of intent for medical marijuana dispensaries have been submitted to the D.C. Department of Health, while 11 letters have been submitted for cultivation centers – nine by individuals or groups that are also looking to run a dispensary.

The letters of intent – copies of which were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request – are the first step in gaining a license to run one of the five dispensaries and 10 cultivation centers that will grow and distribute medical marijuana to qualifying patients in the District. The letters will be followed by a lengthy and expensive application process overseen by a seven-member committee that will consider everything from security plans to ANC input before granting licenses.

The letters don’t give away much, but they provide some insight into who’s looking to get into the business of growing or dispensing medical marijuana. One potential applicant for both dispensary and cultivation center licenses touts his Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences, his “green thumb” and a hobby in landscaping and design; another notes that she’s part of a minority, women-owned business operated by lifelong residents.

One group looking to run a cultivation center promotes their professional capabilities – they’ve got a “professional grower…with vast experience in all aspects related to the production and operation of a horticultural facility” on staff, not to mention an Advisory Board that includes a former police lieutenant; while another is a “well capitalized” investor that has run two cultivation centers in San Diego.

There’s a few recognizable names, including Montgomery Blair Sibley (who we interviewed last November); Adam Eidinger, the owner of the Capitol Hemp shops; and Stephenie Reifkind Khan, wife of Rabbi Jeffrey Khan, who was profiled by the City Paper last year. The names of the LLCs and organizations run the gamut from innocent to devious – there’s Hope Haven and Metropolitan Wellness Center, but also District of Cannabis Cultivation Center and Jahrock.

Only a few tease out the locations they’ve scoped out for their dispensaries and cultivation centers, which have to be at least 300 feet away from schools and youth centers. Two cultivation centers would be in Northeast, one north of Bladensburg Road, the other to the south. (Sibley has been eying a location along New York Avenue NE.) One dispensary could be along Pennsylvania Avenue SE within a block of Eastern Market, another somewhere in Ward 2. (We’ve also heard of groups scoping out spots in Adams Morgan, Takoma and Tenleytown.)

While interested parties have until June 17 to submit letters of intent to the Department of Health, the small number that have been handed in so far might well be a function of a program that will be restrictive, expensive and carefully monitored. Application costs for cultivation centers and dispensaries run $5,000 a pop, while annual fees stand at $5,000 for cultivation centers and $10,000 for dispensaries. Renewals will cost $3,000, and a rejected application will cost an applicant a full 50 percent of their application fee. Each cultivation center will only be allowed to grow 95 plants at a time, meaning that profit margins could well be very, very thin – if they exist at all.

City officials say that they’d like to have the medical marijuana program fully functioning by October, but some advocates say that it won’t likely happen until 2012.

http://dcist.com/2011/05/theyre_both_individuals_and_organiz.php

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