By Pat Warren

WASHINGTON (WJZ) — While cancer patients in Maryland continue to risk arrest for buying marijuana, neighboring Washington, D.C. opens its first marijuana dispensaries.

Pat Warren reports on the process.

The dispensaries opened this week, and anyone who has a qualifying condition and proves they’re a D.C. resident can buy marijuana legally.

Capital City offers a controversial care, and has nine patients so far.

“It has been a long wait, not for me but for countless others. And I know there are a lot of people who don’t even know where to begin the process,” a patient said.

Capital City is a medical marijuana dispensary in Washington, D.C.

“They simply choose grams or eighths or quarters or half ounces. They can have up to two ounces per 30-day period,” a man explained.

In Maryland, patients–still waiting for a process to be put in place–are running the risk of arrest.

“And I didn’t want to do something illegal, but I was driven to eat and I was driven to feel better,” a woman said.

“Can I legally do it? No. Do I want to be able to get it legally? Absolutely,” a man said.

“I was being arrested and taken to jail,” another patient said.

It has taken years to successfully make their case in the Maryland General Assembly.

“Helps my appetite, nausea, sleep, some of the pain that I have,” a man testified.

This year, lawmakers authorized a commission to set up a process for applications from academic medical centers to provide marijuana to qualified patients and research the effectiveness of the drug. They will determine which diseases to treat.

Patients in D.C. who qualify are diagnosed with HIV, cancer, glaucoma and severe spasms.

“I’ve been HIV positive for 21 years, been in a coma, two strokes. There’s so much I’ve got going on, I just want to relax. I want to relax and enjoy my time here on Earth,” said Sidney Porter.

D.C. voters approved legislation to open the centers.

Maryland Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein tells WJZ the state is still in the process of appointing the commission, which may be ready to take applications from hospitals next year.

Baltimore Delegate Cheryl Glenn tells WJZ she will introduce legislation next year to simplify patient access to marijuana.

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