By Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town
The Delaware House on Thursday approved a bill legalizing medical marijuana in the state, and the Senate approved the original measure back in March. But the House added two changes that must now be approved by the Senate before the measure can become law.
The bill would allow people 18 and older with qualifying medical conditions to have up to six ounces of cannabis after getting a doctor's written recommendation, reports the Associated Press.
House members added an amendment that marijuana must be dispensed to patients in sealed, tamper-proof containers before passing the bill on a 27-14 vote. Oddly, they also tacked on a provision banning patients from smoking cannabis while riding in privately owned motor vehicles, not just when using public transportation.
"This is a common sense public safety measure," said amendment sponsor Rep. John Atkins, claiming a driver "might be impaired" by second-hand marijuana smoke from a passenger.
Atkins (D-Millsboro) also sponsored the amendment requiring tamper-proof containers, claiming it will help provide safeguards for both patients and law enforcement.
The Senate approved the original bill by an overwhelming 18-3 margin in March and will take a look at the two new amendments.
T.J. Jurgens of Smyrna, Delaware, a woman who has had cancer for years and has used marijuana to ease her suffering, urged lawmakers to approve the bill so she would no longer have to be "a cancer criminal."
House lawmakers rejected an amendment by Rep. Don Blakey (R-Dover) to remove the age restriction for medical marijuana patients, although they said it could be revisited later once they see how the program is working.
"I agree that pain does not discriminate by age," said House Majority Leader Peter Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth). "I agree that disease does not discriminate by age."
Under the bill, patients with qualifying conditions would be referred to state-licensed compassion centers, which would grow and dispense marijuana. The bill allows one nonprofit compassion center in each county within a year of its passage.
The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services would issue ID cards to patients and caregivers to help them avoid arrest. Each qualified caregiver could assist up to five patients, and the state would keep a database of registered patients and caregivers.
Patients would be allowed to buy up to three ounces of marijuana every two weeks, and could possess up to six ounces at any one time.
Rep. Danny Short (R-Seaford) pointed to reports of federal prosecutors recently sending out threatening letters warning that people who grow and use marijuana, even in states where it is legal for medical purposes, would run the risk of federal prosecution.
But Karen O'Keefe, an attorney with the Marijuana Policy Project, said the recent letters from U.S. Attorneys appear to be aimed at states with "loosely regulated" medical marijuana systems, "such as California and Washington."
O'Keefe said she doesn't believe states with clear laws and regulations, such as those proposed in Delaware, have been targeted by federal officials.
Article From Toke of the Town and republished with special permission.