Newspaper article Roll Call

Mixed Reactions to Medical Marijuana Proposal

Newspaper article Roll Call

Mixed Reactions to Medical Marijuana Proposal

Article excerpt

If an aspiring entrepreneur gets his way, a two-story walk-up on Barracks Row, already home to a tattoo parlor and a Popeyes franchise, could also be the site of another potentially lucrative enterprise: a medical marijuana dispensary.

Mike Cuthriell is one of 17 applicants vying for permits to run such dispensaries. If he makes it past the first round of cuts at the beginning of March, he'll be one step closer to being among the five picked in May to open for business.

Capitol Hill will also be one step closer to having a new neighbor under the name Metropolitan Wellness Center, but the community has not spoken with a clear voice on whether it would welcome the business's arrival.

"People have questions and concerns, but they are ultimately supportive," said Ivan Frishberg, the advisory neighborhood commissioner for Barracks Row.

Medical marijuana dispensaries are coming to D.C. after more than a decade of controversy.

Voters approved a ballot initiative green-lighting such a program in 1998, with almost 70 percent in favor. Congress then blocked the program from being implemented for the next 10 years, using riders in appropriations bills.

Congress lifted the ban in 2009, setting the stage for a long and involved application process that will end this spring.

A Businessman First

Cuthriell said he first became interested in providing access to medical marijuana when a close friend became sick with cancer.

That inspired Cuthriell, a veteran business consultant, to explore options for getting the drug, and along the way he learned that D.C. would soon be launching a medical marijuana program.

"Part of it was the interest in supporting the patient community that used it," Cuthriell said of his decision to apply to run a dispensary.

"The other part of it seemed like an interesting opportunity to start a business. It's not where I necessarily thought I'd be at this point in my life, but at the same time I felt like I had a lot of experience and savvy and I'd be able to set up a good organization."

Applicants are required to identify the site of their proposed dispensaries, but they are not guaranteed a license until the end of the application process. This uncertainty makes it tricky to nail down a lease without risking the loss of a significant sum of money if things don't go as planned.

Cuthriell was able to obtain a "holding lease" on his space along Eighth Street Southeast.

He looked at a handful of other properties before the Barracks Row location came through, and he's pleased with the way things worked out.

"I think it would be a privilege to be settled in this area," Cuthriell said. "I think there are a lot of opportunities to contribute to the growth and advancement of this area, and I know the community is very passionate about making this a great place to live and work."

Barracks Row has, indeed, grown and blossomed over the past decade. …

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