Archives for posts with tag: Washington

Yesterday was a whirlwind. After waking up at 5:30 a.m., I spent 18 hours total in Wards 7 and 8 (east of the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C.) and in the downtown Washington Post office reporting on the mayoral Democratic primary.

My reporting contributed to The Washington Post’s extensive coverage of the Councilmember Muriel Bowser’s victory over incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray.

Below are links to articles and tweets that contain my writing, reporting or photos from April 1. I’ve pulled out and quoted (what I think is) the most interesting stuff, and you can find more at washingtonpost.com or at my Twitter account:

“How D.C. votes: Paper or Scantron?”

“Huge variation in turnout across city”

THEARC has special meaning to the mayor, since it’s part of what he sees as successful development in Ward 8. ”It’s a phenomenal addition to this area of Southeast,” Gray said Tuesday when he swung by the recreation and arts center shortly before noon. While “the turnout has not been great,” he said, those who showed up were “energized.”

“Shallal’s key challenge: ‘Who are you?'”

Andy Shallal stands out in a crowd. In the parking lot of Benning Public Library in Ward 7, the restaurateur and mayoral candidate towers over volunteers for Mayor Vincent C. Gray and D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser.

Shallal walks laps between the polling place doors to pick up handicapped access signage and the bed of his campaign’s pickup truck to grab a slice of pizza. In between, he greets voters with a handshake (and once, a long, quiet embrace of a somber voter.)

“It’s not a heavy turnout,” Shallal said in an interview. “Everybody’s precious.”

City polling sites show apparently low voter turnout

Many preferred to sit out.

Hezekiah Smalls, 23, volunteered for 15 hours of Election Day but spent none of that time voting. “I don’t think it was important enough,” Smalls said.

Though he considers his time at the Benning Public Library running the ballot boxes a “service to the community,” he said he prefers to vote only in presidential elections, where, he said, the outcomes have a bigger impact.

“Voter turnout: ‘Where is everybody?'”

“Poll workers: Lowest turnout in memory”

“Bowser, Gray supporters explain choices”

Down the hill from the Covenant Baptist Church in Congress Heights, Lafayette Barnes and Clifford Waddy stand by campaign signs and flyer and joke about age and giving their information to a reporter.

But Barnes is manning the table for Mayor Vince Gray, and Waddy sports a green cap emblazoned with the name of council member Muriel Bowser, Gray’s closest competitor for the mayoral election.

Turnout light so far in one precinct

Diane Boyd, 62, voted for Gray after seeing improvements of the community in terms of education, crime and the economy.

“Across the river, on the other side, they get a lot of what they need…east of the river, we’re denied a lot. It’s not the same,” said Boyd, a contact representative for the D.C. Board.

Some of this reporting makes an appearance in the print edition depending on the edition. Given the late results release by the D.C. Board of Elections, The Washington Post’s print edition carried the mayoral race on A1 in every edition Tuesday night, but in different ways depending on the news available at the time.

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IFSA blog 12.2.13

Some final thoughts on my trip to Costa Rica. I’ll miss it dearly, but I’m happy to be moving on.

New Voices 9.18.13

WASHINGTON – When Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn told his former congregants that he was opening a medicinal marijuana dispensary, they were nothing but supportive.

“The cannabis plant was created by God on the second day of creation when God created all the other plants, and touching this one isn’t forbidden,” Jeff said in a June interview.

Read the rest of the story here.

This was a really fun article to write. Jeff and Stephanie were absolutely phenomenal, and they’ve really got a great story to tell. I wouldn’t have put in the time and effort into this piece that I did if I didn’t believe that.

I interviewed them in June but didn’t get a chance to hand it into the editor before I went to Costa Rica. There was a transition between New Voices editors (welcome, Derek Kwait! My old boss, David A.M.  Wilensky, is off to bigger and better things at the Jewish Outreach Institute), so I ended up publishing the piece here, and it was one of the more popular posts I’ve ever published on this website.

I’m glad I now get to share it with the New Voices audience, whom I haven’t written for in well over a year.

If you’d also like to publish this story, please contact me.

UPDATE Sept. 25 12:04 p.m. MT: ABC News’ Susan D. James quoted the story:

“The cannabis plant was created by God on the second day of creation when God created all the other plants, and touching this one isn’t forbidden,” Kahn said in a June interview with New Voices, a national magazine for Jewish college students.

 

It just seems a natural extension of my rabbinate.

Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn is the owner of D.C.'s newest medical marijuana dispensary, in Takoma Park. Photo by Zach C. Cohen.

Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn is the owner of D.C.’s newest medical marijuana dispensary, in Takoma Park. Photo by Zach C. Cohen.

WASHINGTON – When Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn told his former congregants that he was opening a medicinal marijuana dispensary, they were nothing but supportive.

“The cannabis plant was created by God on the second day of creation when God created all the other plants, and touching this one isn’t forbidden,” Jeff said in a June interview.

As somebody who “came of age as a rabbi during the age of AIDS,” Jeff’s no stranger to the pain felt by those without the access to the medicine they need.

And as “a lifelong educator,” Jeff said the Jewish aspect of the work he does now is strong. He still teaches people to question preconceived falsehoods, whether it’s in Hebrew School or about medicinal marijuana. The fact that that education can then lead to people getting the medicine they need makes it all the more Jewish.

“The whole idea of breaking through those kinds of barriers and being able to help to connect people to what can really help them, it just seems a natural extension of my rabbinate and a natural extension of what’s important to me about how Judaism views life and the world,” Jeff said.

When you’re sick, Jeff said, it’s OK to eat on Yom Kippur. The inverse is true: As Jews, we have a responsibility to help those that are sick even when we should be praying.

“The mitzvah of helping people is more important,” Jeff said.

So Jeff ended his 30-year career as a congregational rabbi and dedicated three years of his life, attending countless local government meetings; speaking with local business owners, neighbors and even D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser; and renting a space for two and a half years — all before he even knew if the center would open.

That day finally came Aug. 1, and the Takoma Wellness Center has served three customers.

Stephanie Reifkind Kahn, background, talks to her husband and Jeff. Photo by Zach C. Cohen.

Stephanie Reifkind Kahn, background, talks to her husband Jeff, at desk. Photo by Zach C. Cohen.

Jeff worked full time to get the clinic up and running while his wife, Stephanie Reifkind Kahn, continues to work as Specialty Hospital of Washington Hadley’s director of performance improvement and regulatory compliance.

“We’ve been in the helping professions for our entire lives,” Stephanie said.

In a town known for a bureaucracy that citizens love to hate, the Kahns optimistically filled out their 350-page application in November 2011 and followed the constantly-revised rules that will eventually regulate the 1999 decision by D.C. residents to legalize medicinal marijuana.

“The Department of Health, although they’ve been very slow, have been very positive,” Stephanie said. “They just really want to get it right. There’s been so many problems in other places. Everyone is very aware that this is our nation’s capital, and they don’t want to have problems.”

And neither do the Kahns. The Takoma Wellness Center is set in a safe, northwestern outskirt within the District’s borders, right by the Metro that takes passengers right into the heart of D.C. The door to the shop, framed in a tan, brick arch and a gravel driveway, has not one, but two doors between unseemly types and the clinic’s lobby. The Kahns want no business with drug use’s “counter-culture,” and security will be tight with the help of a guard checking IDs and security cameras trained on the entrance.

Those who visit the clinic will be benefitting charity as well, since all of the center’s profits will go to non-profits in the local area.

The wall of the then-yet-to-be-opened Takoma Wellness Center featuring hamsas, a traditional Jewish symbol. Photo by Zach C. Cohen.

The wall of the then-yet-to-be-opened Takoma Wellness Center featuring hamsas, a traditional Jewish symbol. Photo by Zach C. Cohen.

Once inside, the pale blue-gray walls feel like your neighborhood doctor’s office. The office walls are lined with hamsas, the Jewish symbol to ward away evil. Most of them belong to the Kahns and are from Israel.

“I really love them because the idea of healing and protection, and also because of harmony,” Stephanie said.

Past the lobby, a private consulting area for patients examining various types of marijuana both with and without THC, including Jack Herer, OG Kush, Master Kush and Blue Dream (all four of which are grown in D.C. by cultivators licensed by the D.C. Department of Health). They can weigh the benefits and disadvantages of different consumption methods: smoking, vaporizers;  cooking it into butter or oil; tinctures; pills. There’s also a library with about two dozen books and a stand with more literature on medicinal marijuana.

“We really wanted it to not look like anything having to do with counter culture, that it looks warm and professional and a place that anybody could come in and feel comfortable,” Stephanie said.

There’s still stigma attached to dealing marijuana, even when it’s legal. But the Kahns said they’ve heard only support from their loved ones.

“A few years earlier, maybe not even 10, it would have been different,” Jeff said. “I think we would have gotten less support.”

Jeff and Stephanie have encountered those stigma. Stephanie’s mother and father suffered from diseases that would have benefitted from the drug. Her father, Jules Reifkind, had multiple sclerosis, her mother, Libby, had lung cancer. Their doctors both prescribed medicinal marijuana, and her father benefitted greatly from its healing properties.

When his doctor first told him to take marijuana, “my father was very, you know, middle class business man, and this was the ‘70s, and he was like, ‘Are you high?’” Stephanie said.

“Finally he did, and it made a huge difference,” Stephanie said. Jules died in 2005 at the age of 75.

But Libby never received that treatment, since she died two months after being diagnosed in 2009.

There will come day, Jeff said, when dispensaries won’t be necessary, when marijuana will be treated like any other prescription drug, when people like Stephanie’s parents won’t have to suffer when the drug they need is illegal.

“In the meantime,” Jeff said, “this a great way to be able to make sure people can get their medicine safely — safe medicine — without having to go to dangerous places to get it.”

This piece was updated 4:47 p.m. on Aug. 19 with new information from Jeff Kahn regarding the opening. 

To syndicate this piece, please contact me. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and on my blog

Start the conversation below: Did the Kahns make the right move? Is it appropriate for a rabbi to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the nation’s capital?

UPDATE Aug. 18: This piece has been republished by New Voices Magazine