Cannabis. Weed. Ganja. Terms we all know colloquially, but for some, knowledge of the Devil’s Lettuce hardly extends beyond what they’ve seen in cult flicks like Pineapple Express.
To help educate cannabis novices and experienced pot users alike, The Outlaw Report is launching Ask A Stoner, a weekly column that answers our readers’ most burning questions. We hope Ask A Stoner can help demystify the ever-shifting, oft-misunderstood world of cannabis as policies evolve in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.
For this first installment, we’ll start with the basics: How to get a medical cannabis card in the District of Columbia.
In D.C., there are two ways to purchase cannabis.
You can either pop into one of the dozens of unlicensed “gray-market” shops around town, or you can get a medical cannabis card, and head to one of the District’s seven licensed medical dispensaries.
Gray-market dispensaries usually sell you a cheap, legal item that comes with a free “gift” of cannabis. For instance, you might buy a $60 sticker in order to receive a gift of an eighth-of-an-ounce of pot. (By the way, that’s about enough to roll three to six joints.)
Though that eighth is advertised as free, you’re really paying full price—the purpose of the whole gifting dance is only to help unlicensed shops avoid issues with the law. And here’s why: Technically, only licensed medical dispensaries are authorized to sell cannabis in the District. But a well-known provision in D.C. law allows weed to be gifted, and gray-market dispensaries rely on that loophole to stay in business.
Many D.C. residents purchase cannabis at the unlicensed dispensaries, but some pot users—especially those with health issues—prefer taking the medical route.
For that, you’ll need a D.C. medical cannabis card, which may seem a bit convoluted and intimidating. But fear no more! As your stoner-in-residence, I ventured into the unknown to clear up the haze.
First off, you’ll need to visit the District’s info page to check that you qualify for a card. Here’s what you’ll need:
Two proofs of residency. I used my D.C. driver’s license and my apartment lease. It’s a winning combo if, like me, your license doesn’t have your latest address because you’ve moved around D.C. six times in the past three years.
An approval letter from a certified medical cannabis doctor. You can do this part the hard way by finding your own doctor, making an appointment, and filling out the application. Or you can hire a third-party company to do all that for you.
There are many different services—each with their own fees and odd legalese—but one relatively straightforward service is Veriheal.
For $200, the company paired me up with a doctor, set up my appointment, and got me an instant approval letter. And for an extra $10, they sent my information to D.C.’s Medical Cannabis Program. Within three days, I had a digital copy of my medical cannabis card in hand.
The process is somewhat similar in the 36 states that have now legalized medical pot, though every jurisdiction has its quirks.
Maryland’s Medical Cannabis Commission makes the process pretty easy, with a dedicated portal that helps you find a doctor and fill out the necessary paperwork at no cost. You’ll just need to pay for the card itself, which will run you around $50.
Virginia’s process is slightly different, though the pricing is the same. In the commonwealth, each patient must have a qualifying condition. You can find a list of conditions on the website for Virginia’s medical cannabis program.
Okay, so now that you’ve got your card, let’s pick up some medical cannabis!
Not quite yet.
You won’t be able to just waltz into a dispensary right away. Medical dispensaries are considered a healthcare setting, so your first visit is treated like a doctor’s consultation.
I went to Takoma Wellness Center, a family-operated dispensary run by Jeffrey Kahn, who’s been dubbed D.C.’s Rabbi of Pot. Before you purchase anything, you’ll need to fill out a patient-intake form. The process is the same at any D.C. medical dispensary, and was just as quick when I visited Anacostia Organics and Capital City Care.
After filling out some easy paperwork, I was brought into a waiting room where security triple-checked my ID and medical card. Then, I was finally guided into the dispensary, where a budtender asked what brought me in.
As someone who deals with insomnia, I was looking for a heavy-hitting indica that would help me get some shut-eye. I’ve always been a raw flower kind of guy, but you’ll have plenty of options—from vapes to edibles, and even suppositories.
In a pandemic-free world, you’d get to open a jar and give it a big whiff as the budtender describes its effects, aromas and strain lineage. Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions, you’ll have to settle for just the visuals.
In the end, I walked out with a couple different samples after chatting at-length with the budtender, who helped me pick the right strain for some deep slumber. It didn’t disappoint.