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The State of Medical Marijuana in Delaware
2020 Grade: C+
2019-2020 Improvements and Recommendations
Newly authorized Compassionate Use Cards (CUSs) will be issued to eligible applying patients and will specifically indicate the type of cardholder (e.g. physician, patient, caregiver, etc). Patients and their physicians must submit information to the Division of Public Health indicating that the patient has a severe and debilitating condition and that current standard care practices and treatments have been exhausted. In 2020, Delaware implemented emergency features to the state’s medical access model, declaring cannabis businesses essential, allowing for telehealth visits for patient registrations, and authorizing both curbside pickup and delivery.
Delaware licensed only six retailers, which are owned by the same three ownership groups. Patient access is negatively impacted in a number of ways as a result of this oligopoly arrangement. Core issues include inadequate and inconsistent supply of critical medicine to treat patient conditions, lack of medical cannabis product consistency, excessive pricing and lack of product availability in larger quantities.
Delaware lawmakers should expand the number of retail access points, impose requirements on retail operators to maintain sufficient quantities and varieties of products, and provide for sufficient patient engagement accommodations (e.g. seating, pre-order capability for curbside pickup). ASA also encourages the state to make improvements to lab testing regulations, product safety protocols, and product labeling requirements. Lab testing should include an analysis of the volume of specific cannabis compounds in the product (e.g. THC, CBD, CBG) and related terpenes, and included on all product labels. ASA also encourages the state to maintain COVID emergency program additions.
In 2011, the Delaware General Assembly approved Senate Bill 17, the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act, making it legal for a patient with a registration identification card to use and possess cannabis for medical purposes and to designate a caregiver to assist them. Under the law registered patients and designated caregivers may possess up to six ounces of usable cannabis, but no personal cultivation is allowed. Qualifying patients and caregivers are protected from discrimination in employment, education, housing, parental rights, and medical care, including organ transplants. Delaware Division of Public Health drafted regulations governing the Medical Marijuana Program in 2012, however, the program was suspended before the regulations became active after Governor Jack Markell received a letter from the U.S. Attorney for Delaware threatening legal action against state employees if Delaware moved forward with the program. In August 2013, Governor Markell lifted the suspension, and the Department of Health and Social Services completed the process of implementing regulations. The state’s first compassion center was opened in 2014.
In 2015, three legislative updates were made to the program. SB 7 made technical changes to the Oversight Committee and SB 138 authorizes research studies in the state. The most notable change was SB 90, which allows pediatric access to cannabis extract oils with less than 7 percent THC. In 2017, the legislature approved HB 219 and SB 24, with the former bill allowing minors access to the same petition process as adults to add qualifying conditions, and the latter removing the requirement that PTSD patients obtain their medical cannabis recommendations from licensed psychiatrists.
In 2018 and 2019, Delaware enacted legislation that added new health conditions to the patient eligibility list as well as cannabis criminal offense expungement legislation. Specifically the General Assembly approved HB 374, adding glaucoma, chronic debilitating migraines, pediatric autism spectrum disorder, and pediatric sensory processing disorder to the state’s list of qualifying conditions. The Governor also signed into law SB 197, legislation that approved mandatory expungements for certain cannabis offenses, including possession of one ounce or less. The 2018 calendar year closed with a Delaware judge allowing a medical cannabis patient to move forward with a discrimination case against his employer. In 2019, Governor Carney signed SB 47 into law, which makes cannabis possession a civil rather than criminal violation for people under 21 years old.
Surveyed patients report frustration that dispensaries lack a consistent inventory of flower and concentrates, and believe that dispensaries are not able to keep up with demands from the increasing number of medical cannabis patients in the state. Surveyed patients are concerned that the cost of cannabis products are still very high and hope that deliveries will be made available to them in the future.