Last month four medical marijuana dispensaries gave negative testimony in relation to a legalization bill in Delaware. Many patients, activists, and others plan to stage a boycott of these dispensaries as a result.
Cannabis Companies Fighting Marijuana Advocacy in Delaware
Adult-use marijuana activists and medical marijuana patients were shocked to discover four out of the six existing medical marijuana dispensaries in Delaware had testified in opposition to a full legalization bill, HB 150. The companies who testified were EZY Venture (aka The Farm), CannaTech Research Inc, Fresh Delaware (aka CCRI), and Colombia Care. These dispensaries have been facing massive backlash from cannabis enthusiasts, patients, and grassroots organizers, who have gone so far as calling for patients to boycott these locations.
Though it is not unheard of, it is uncommon for medical marijuana operators to be among those actively opposing recreational legalization. There is a lot of speculation as to why these dispensaries were not in favor of the adult-use bill. The testimonies revealed a concern from medical dispensaries that a full adult-use program would create too much supply to be manageable. CannTech Research Inc. representative Aaron Epsteinmade claimed that the total canopy size offered under the legalization bill would be able to “supply all of the legal and illegal marijuana on the entire East Coast.” The legalization bill in question would create an additional 30 dispensary licenses as well as 60 cultivation licenses.
Columbia Care representative Sharice Ward echoed this “oversupply” claim, stating that Delaware patients would see higher costs and “administrative burdens” without providing any explanation as to why. Currently, the small number of medical retailers in Delaware results in high prices for products, and patients could certainly benefit from increased access to dispensaries. Pro-legalization advocates claim that the current medical marijuana operators have cornered the market and hope to squash the recreational bill to eliminate potential competition.
Fresh Delaware went so far as to say that they would have to dump unionized workers if this HB 150 passed because it would, “render [their] carefully considered long-term vision a non-recoupable loss.”
Delaware’s Fight for Recreational Marijuana
In response to the negative testimonies from Delaware dispensaries, Executive Director of Delaware CAN, Zoë Patchell retorted, “Cannabis is more than a market – cannabis is a community. These companies cannot reasonably fathom that we are going to purchase cannabis from any entity that has proven to put profits over patients. And now they seem willing to put consumers’ lives and freedom at risk just to hold out for an unfair advantage in the industry.” Cannabis advocates largely align with this view that the marijuana industry, whether it be medical or recreational, should not serve with the sole intention of feeding big business interests while price-gouging consumers and patients.
Delaware NORM director Laura Sharer said, “We’re angry that these big companies are trying to reduce the number of licenses available to limit much-needed competition. As a patient, I don’t see our dispensaries having an adequate supply or diversity in products.” With only six dispensaries active in the state, there is very little incentive for creating a robust marketplace with diverse cannabis products tailored to consumers’ needs and budgets. Sharer continued, “They also charge an exorbitant rate for their medicine. If they are so flush with supply why are prices so high? These companies are making millions selling high-priced, subpar cannabis, with very few options available for patients. The patients need competition in the market, and they need more options.”
Lillyanne Ternahan, a registered medical marijuana patient wrote in Cape Gazette, “These companies’ greed and desire for market control is what is harming medical patients. The lack of affordable cannabis in sufficient quantities to meet the demand is causing patients to suffer. These dispensaries have failed to produce results and have been allotted more than adequate time to produce results. They do not deserve nor hold the credentials to be first to receive new licenses to empower their greedy corporate interests.”
Delaware is not the only state grappling with the issue of high prices and inadequate access. Chris Goldstein, who writes about medical marijuana reform for the Philadelphia Inquirer and blogs as a Regional Organizer at NORML, commented on how medical marijuana dispensary operators have been raising their prices across the states these dispensaries are in. He said, “Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware have the most expensive medical cannabis in the country at $360 to $440 per ounce of flower, while in Maine, where patients can access a wider range of small businesses and craft cannabis, the price is down to $140 per ounce.”
Until there are federal standards for regulating medical and recreational marijuana, it is likely we will continue to see these conflicts of interest continue to pit state industry representatives against legalization activists.
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