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Medical Marijuana a Year Later

Two years ago, we passed the Medical Marijuana Act in Delaware. The law took effect last July. A year later, there are no dispensaries and no legal way for patients to obtain the drug.

The reason given, according to the Division of Public Health:
The creation of the state-licensed, privately owned compassion centers has been suspended by the state. Based on guidance from the US Attorney, the compassion centers concept conflicts with federal law. As a result there is no plan to open compassion centers at this time.

This is the current situation, despite the Act itself containing the following:
”(f) States are not required to enforce federal law or prosecute people for engaging in activities prohibited by federal law. Therefore, compliance with this chapter does not put the State of Delaware in violation of federal law. “

For Delaware citizens, the situation is a strange one. If they obtain a medical marijuana card under the program (and have certification from their physician), they are allowed to possess up to six ounces of the drug. However, patients are not allowed to grow marijuana, nor are they allowed to purchase it. Once in their possession, the program protects them from prosecution, but without any dispensaries in the state, the weed would have to magically appear for patients to avoid all risk.

Delaware is still counted as a state where medical marijuana is legal, but our program is broken and unlikely to be fixed unless federal law changes. In other states, where the dispensary model has moved forward, these “compassion centers” have been a continuing target for federal law enforcement and many have been shut down and their owners prosecuted under federal statutes.

Because of this mismatch between state laws and federal, advocates are starting to focus on changing federal law, with current legislation in Congress. The House Bill they pin some hopes on would require the federal government recognize state law for marijuana prosecution. Should it pass, it would also clear up even more serious conflicts with states like Colorado, where marijuana is legal as a recreational drug.


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