Gov. Jack Markell says state officials will begin writing regulations for a compassion center that will provide medical marijuana to residents with serious illnesses; Decision comes one and a half years after a memo from U.S. Dept. of Justice prompted Markell to suspend implementation; governor cites other states moving forward with dispensary programs
DOVER, DE — Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) informed state lawmakers Thursday that state officials are preparing to establish a regulated medical marijuana dispensary program.
“We applaud Gov. Markell for taking this essential step toward providing safe and legal access to medical marijuana for qualified patients,” said Robert Capecchi, deputy director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “We look forward to working with his administration and other stakeholders to ensure patients will no longer need to turn to the illegal market to purchase their legal medicine.”
In a letter to State Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington) and State Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South), who sponsored the 2011 medical marijuana legislation, 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.”
The entire letter is available at http://www.mpp.org/MarkellLetter
Legislation authorizing a dispensary program was signed into law in May 2011, but implementation was suspended in early 2012 in response to a memorandum from Deputy U.S. Attorney General James M. Cole to U.S. attorneys clarifying the U.S. Department of Justice’s position on the conflict between federal and state medical marijuana laws.
The Delaware Department of Health and Human Services implemented the other elements of the law and began accepting applications for medical marijuana ID cards in July 2012, but patients have not been able to legally obtain medical marijuana because the law does not allow home cultivation.
“Most Americans are fed up with our federal government’s counterproductive marijuana laws,” Capecchi said. “Delaware is among a growing number of states where voters and lawmakers are rejecting federal marijuana policy and opting for a more effective approach.
“The progress being made in Delaware is emblematic of what is taking place in our nation as a whole,” Capecchi said.
State-regulated medical marijuana dispensaries are currently operating in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. Dispensaries are expected to begin operating in New Jersey and Vermont this summer. Additionally, the rule-making process for dispensaries is underway in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
In Nevada, a bill was signed into law in June that adds a regulated dispensary program to its existing medical marijuana law. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a similar bill into law on Wednesday.
New Hampshire and Illinois adopted medical marijuana laws in July and August, respectively, which include systems of state-regulated dispensaries. Twenty states and D.C. allow patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their physicians.