Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) informed state lawmakers Thursday that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will be moving forward with drafting regulations for a medical marijuana dispensary program. This is very welcome news that is long overdue. In a letter to the legislators who sponsored the state's medical marijuana law, Markell said:
As a result of our review of policies in Rhode Island, New Jersey and other states, I have become convinced that proceeding with our program, while making considered modifications to address federal concerns, is the appropriate course for Delaware. Therefore, I am writing you to inform you that [the Department of Health and Human Services] will proceed to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for a pilot compassion center to open in Delaware next year.
Despite enacting the law in 2011 and ordering DHHS to issue regulations for medical marijuana patient ID cards, Markell halted the process of setting up compassion centers in 2012 after receiving a somewhat threatening letter from the U.S. attorney. As a result, patients have not been able to legally obtain medical marijuana because the law does not allow home cultivation. If you live in Delaware, please take a moment to email our legislative champions to thank them for their hard work on behalf of medical marijuana patients. You can also email Gov. Markell to thank him for moving forward. Finally, please share this great news with your friends and family in The First State.
Today, Gov. Jack Markell signed SB 17 into law, making it legal for Delaware residents with certain serious medical conditions to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. The bill had bipartisan sponsors and support in the legislature. This makes Delaware the 16th state, along with the District of Columbia, to pass an effective medical marijuana law.
The law goes into effect on July 1 and will permit people diagnosed with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, decompensated cirrhosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), agitation of Alzheimer's disease, PTSD, intractable nausea, severe seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms, wasting syndrome, and severe debilitating pain that has not responded to other treatments or for which other treatments produced serious side effects to possess up to six ounces of marijuana without fear of arrest. Qualified patients will not be able to cultivate their own medicine, but they will be able to obtain medical marijuana from state-licensed compassion centers regulated by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, which will also issue medical marijuana ID cards to patients who receive a recommendation from their doctor. Public use of marijuana and driving under the influence are prohibited.
“There are so many people in Delaware who are suffering unimaginable pain that this will help, and we want to be able to do what we can to provide much-needed relief for those citizens,” said Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington East, who sponsored the legislation. “I am very grateful that so many of my colleagues were able to look past the myths surrounding marijuana and into the eyes and hearts of those who were crying out for our help. Needless to say, I am profoundly grateful to Gov. Markell for his support of this important legislation.”
“Today is an amazing victory for seriously ill Delaware patients, who have been waiting a very long time for the chance to use the medicine they need without fear,” said Noah Mamber, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, who lobbied and mobilized patients, professionals, and grassroots activists in support of the bill. “SB17 is the most comprehensive, tightly-written medical marijuana bill in the country, and with this vote, the Delaware Legislature proved that compassion is not a red or a blue issue. It’s a human issue.”
Chris McNeely, a Dagsboro National Guard veteran and chronic pain patient with severe wasting syndrome, said, “Until this law was passed, I was afraid to use medical marijuana, even though it helped me in the past, because if I was arrested and put in jail, they could not properly care for me, and I could actually die. I am so happy I will be able to get legal relief soon.”
With this victory, we are well on our way to accomplishing MPP's goal of 27 medical marijuana states by 2014. Keep up the good work, everybody!
Thrilling news! Yesterday, the Delaware House passed SB 17, in a 27-14 vote. The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence on House amendments before heading to the desk of Governor Jack Markell.
MPP’s Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies, and Noah Mamber, legislative analyst for Delaware, were in Dover to assist with the floor debate. Several patients joined them.
SB 17, sponsored by Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington), would allow the compassionate use of medical marijuana for chronically ill Delaware patients with their doctors’ recommendations. It would include tightly regulated, extremely limited distribution of medical marijuana by licensing three not-for-profit compassion centers, one in each of the Delaware counties.
This is a significant triumph for seriously ill patients in Delaware, and we couldn’t have done it without your support. Thanks so much to all of the committed Delaware patients, health care professionals, and activists who took the time to call and write their legislators in support of the bill. With any luck, we’ll be posting again soon to announce that Delaware has officially become the 16th medical marijuana state!