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Cannabis Kerfuffle In Delaware

A Delaware House committee has given the green light to a bill allowing early recreational marijuana sales via existing medical cannabis dispensaries. Not everyone is happy.

Delaware legalized medical marijuana in 2011, but sales didn’t kick off until 2015. In April last year, recreational cannabis was legalised without Governor John Carney’s signature, and the state has been working towards establishing a local industry.

But the Office of the Marijuana Commissioner (OMC) won’t be accepting license applications from businesses until September 1, 2024, and successful applicants will then have to take their chances on a lottery for licenses.

While medical dispensaries were originally disallowed from entering the recreational market earlier than other businesses, Edward S. Osienski’s House Bill 408 seeks to create a temporary conversion license for existing medical marijuana compassion centers to operate for recreational sales. These licenses would not be issued after November 1, 2024 and expire after four years, when they can be renewed as open licenses.

This could get recreational marijuana on the shelves faster, but some are opposed to the legislation, including the Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network.

“It’s imperative that this process is done right,” said the group’s executive director Zoë Patchell. “HB 408 would roll back progress by granting six lucky businesses a golden ticket opportunity that no other business will be awarded.”

Ms. Patchell says this will force new market participants to go to the back of the line, regardless of how skilled or knowledgeable these businesses are. NORML’s Chris Goldstein has said Delaware should not replicate mistakes made in New Jersey where medical cannabis businesses were aided to enter the recreational market.

In other cannabis news out of Delaware, a bill to expand the state’s medical program was sent to the Governor’s office last Thursday. Also sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski, House Bill 285  permits physicians to issue recommendations to any patient who may benefit from cannabis and also allows those aged 65 or older to self-certify for a registration card without a doctor’s recommendation.

Whether the Governor will sign this into law remains to be seen. But he has previously stated he supports medical marijuana, while having some reservations about the consequences of a recreational marijuana industry in his state. Explaining why he didn’t sign bills relating to this last year, the Governor said at the time:

“I’m concerned especially about the potential effects on Delaware’s children, on the safety of our roadways, and on our poorest neighborhoods, where I believe a legal marijuana industry will have a disproportionately negative impact.”

UPDATE: HB 285 was signed into law by the Governor on May 28 local time.

Terry Lassitenaz
Terry Lassitenaz writes exclusively for Hemp Gazette and has done so since the site launched in 2015. He has a special interest in the political arena relating to medical cannabis, particularly in Australia, and addressing the many myths surrounding this incredibly useful plant. You can contact Terry here.

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