By Phillip Smith
More than two years after signing a medical marijuana bill into law, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) signaled Thursday that he is ready to move forward with drafting regulations for dispensaries, or "compassion centers" in Delaware-speak. Markell halted the dispensary portion of the law after in February 2012 receiving a letter from US Attorney Charles Oberly warning that the state risked federal action if it moved to regulate dispensaries.
But in a letter to lawmakers Thursday, Markell said he will issue a request for a proposal to open a single dispensary next year. The 2011 law called for dispensaries in each county of the state's three counties. Markell acted after other states, including New Jersey and Rhode Island, have issued licensed for dispensaries without the federal government coming down on them.
"The sensible and humane aim of state policy in Delaware remains to ensure that medical marijuana is accessible via a safe, well-regulated channel of distribution to patients with demonstrated medical need," the Wilmington News Journal quoted Markell as saying in the letter. The letter which was addressed to Sen. Margaret Rose Henry and Rep. Helene Keeley, both Wilmington Democrats who had supported the bill and urged Markell to move forward.
Currently, Delaware medical marijuana patients are in limbo. While they can register as patients with the state, they have no legal place to buy their medicine, and the state law does not permit them to grow their own.
In the letter, Markell said he hoped to address Justice Department concerns by including "tight security requirements," including round-the-clock video monitoring and limiting the dispensary to growing 150 plants and keeping an inventory of no more than 1,500 ounces of usable marijuana.
The Marijuana Policy Project, which had helped shepherd the law's passage, said in a message to supporters Thursday that Markell's move was "very welcome news that is a long time coming."