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Montell WilliamsHoliday cheer has hindered medical marijuana from finally becoming more than just a pipe dream for patients in the nation’s capital. According to, the D.C. Department of Health has been telling applicants that “changes in personnel and the holiday schedule” delayed license-granting decision-making for the five dispensaries approved to open in the city. Emmy-winning TV personality Montel Williams — as well as a Rabbi — is among those who have a pending application.

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Last week, Williams, a longtime survivor of multiple sclerosis and advocate of medical marijuana, visited D.C.’s notorious Ward Five to petition neighbors, who, through Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, would be allowed to submit comments on the applications. Williams hopes to open two marijuana cultivation centers there, in a neighborhood adjacent to where one of the nation’s largest cocaine dealers, Rayful Edmonds, III, ran an open-air market in the 80’s.

“It’s a building that was burned out,” Williams told NBC 4 about one of the sites. “This building is now the perfect building to put together what we’re proposing, and that’s a greenhouse that could be an urban farm.”

He suggested that it would be a job creation opportunity. One ANC Commissioner contested Williams’ claim: “Tthey’re not required to hire in the city,” said Jackie Manning.

In 1998, 69 percent of D.C. voters passed a medical marijuana referendum. Congress, which has ultimate legislation over the city, implemented a ban, which was lifted in 2009. Red tape, however, has made a sticky situation of license approval. With this recent delay, announcements are not expected until January 2012. Treatment, it is estimated, will be available in May.

In addition to the two cultivation centers, Williams is also seeking to open a dispensary in another D.C. neighborhood. Previously, he partnered up for the successful opening of the Abatin Wellness Cooperative dispensary in Sacramento, and he’s lobbied to make medical marijuana legal in New York. He’s been known to smoke daily to alleviate what he says is otherwise intolerable pain associated with his MS.

Sixteen states and D.C. have legalized medical marijuana; 10 more states are currently considering it. The Federal government has not changed its position, and has threatened to shut down dispensaries in the budding industry’s most successful domestic outlet, California.

Gov. Christine Gregoire of Washington and Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island recently submitted a petition to remedy the State and Federal discrepancies by reclassifying the drug from Schedule I (no accepted medical use) to Schedule II (can be prescribed, administered, or dispensed with certain regulations) under the Controlled Substances Act.

“An ever-growing number of doctors now tell thousands of suffering patients they may find relief from the unique medicinal qualities of cannabis,” Gregoire said in a statement. “There is simply no question that pharmacists could safely and reliably dispense cannabis to patients.”


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