BY LYLE KENDRICK
Medical marijuana will be available in Takoma Park after the D.C. Department of Public Health approves the first patients’ applications.
Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn said he expects that to happen sometime this week.
Kahn owns the Takoma Wellness Center, a medical marijuana dispensary in Takoma Park that he spent the last three years planning. He said the store will open when the health department approves its first patient. The department released the patient application last week.
Distributing medical marijuana is one way that he can help people with serious illnesses relieve their suffering, Kahn said.
“In a lot of ways, it’s like teaching Bible,” he said.
Though legislation in 2010 enabled Kahn, 61, to begin creating the center, he and his wife Stephanie Kahn said they have had the idea for many years.
Parents coping with pain
Stephanie Kahn said her father had multiple sclerosis and per several doctors’ suggestions, he tried it. The marijuana gave him great relief while handling the disease, she said. He died in 2005.
Her mother died of lung cancer in 2009 but was not able to obtain medical marijuana while suffering from the disease. Kahn said while the drug would not have cured her, it would have helped her cope with her pain.
While many in the Takoma Park area have responded positively to the implementation of the wellness center, there has been some pushback in the community.
Some residents are concerned about safety around the center, said Faith Wheeler, vice chairwoman for the Advisory Neighborhood Commission. She also said some people are unable to distinguish between recreational and medicinal marijuana.
Kahn said he thinks some people think the wellness center opening is like a heroin dealer moving into the neighborhood.
“Some people don’t understand how this could be medicine,” he said.
Legislation first step
Kahn began planning the center in 2010 after medical marijuana was legalized in Washington. The law approves medical marijuana usage for patients with HIV, AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and cancer.
But legislation passing was only the first step in making the dispensary possible. In order to gain approval from the surrounding area, Kahn began working with neighborhood and business associations in order to explain his plan and educate the community about how medical marijuana can help patients.
Kahn presented the idea for the center to the 11-person board of the Old Takoma Business Association more than two years ago, said Patty Baker, executive director of the Old Takoma Business Association. She was a board member at the time of the presentation.
Board members who spoke were enthusiastic about the center’s ability to help mitigate sick people’s suffering, Baker said.
Kahn also had to work with the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, whose functions include regulating liquor licenses, to get approval. He said the commission voted 6-2 in favor of the wellness center. The commission represents about 19,000 people in the area, said Faith Wheeler, vice chairwoman for the commission.
Kahn said he also had to fill out a 350-page application for a dispensary that was reviewed by six Washington agencies, including the Department of Health.
The Takoma Wellness Center will be getting its marijuana from three licensed cultivators in the area.
Kahn said the center will distribute the four strains of marijuana made by the cultivators. The properties of the strains are helpful for different ailments, such as nausea and insomnia.
He said the cultivators are ready to deliver when the health department approves the first patients.
Other items for sale
In addition to the marijuana, the store will sell pipes, butter for cooking with marijuana, vaporizers and books.
“Anything that our patients will need to use their medicine will be here,” he said.
The wellness center’s symbol is a hand with an eye on it that is featured throughout the store.
Stephanie Kahn said it is the symbol for hamsa, which means five in Arabic, and hamesh, which means five in Hebrew. She said it is a symbol for protection and healing.
“I love the idea that it’s something everybody in the Middle East agrees on,” she said.
Rabbi Kahn said three dispensaries are opening and that two, including the Takoma Wellness Center, are registered.