On Friday Delaware officially joined the swelling ranks of medical marijuana states with the passage of the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act. The law has been hailed as one of the most comprehensive and “moderns” medical marijuana statutes enacted to date in the US as it is designed to avoid loopholes and set up an efficient state-run dispensary system right off the bat. The law is a remarkable step forward for Delaware, which is no California when it comes to marijuana; possession of even a single joint can land a person in jail for six months. If it happens near a school, church or park the penalty then balloons to a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The bipartisan bill also stands out for closely matching the model bill developed by the Marijuana Policy Project, which actively worked with lawmakers and lobbied for its passage. Medical marijuana advocate Montel Williams kicked off the campaign in January. The talk show host, who uses marijuana to combat his multiple sclerosis, appeared at the Delaware Legislative Hall on the day the bill was introduced and urged lawmakers to “take the patients off the battlefield” and pass the law. After months of debate and dozens of amendments he end result is narrowly tailored law which Noah Mamber, a legislative analyst for the MPP, called “the most comprehensive, tightly-written medical marijuana bill in the country.”
The new law goes into effect on July 1 and will allow people with specific severe illnesses to possess up to six ounces of marijuana. The conditions covered by the law are cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, decompensated cirrhosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD, intractable nausea, severe seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms, wasting syndrome, and severe debilitating pain. Patients will unfortunately not be able to grow their own marijuana but will have to obtain it from licensed not-for-profit “compassion centers” regulated by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. The same department will issue Medical Marijuana cards to patients with a recommendation from their doctor. The bill also includes provisions to protect patients from arrest or prosecution as long as they are in compliance with the law and creates and affirmative court defense for those waiting for their Marijuana ID cards.
Following the signing, Governor Markell said the bill “needed to be about giving targeted help to the most sick in a way that made medical sense, and it is.” Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry, who sponsored the legislation along with Representative Helene Keeley, praised the legislature saying that she was “very grateful that so many of my colleagues were able to look past the myths surrounding marijuana and into the eyes and hearts of those who were crying out for our help.” She added, “there are so many people in Delaware who are suffering unimaginable pain that this will help, and we want to be able to do what we can to provide much-needed relief for those citizens.”
Thus 16 states are now speaking truth to power and leading the charge against the federal war on marijuana. With ongoing efforts to reform marijuana laws all across the nation the Marijuana Policy Project’s stated goal of 27 medical marijuana states by 2014 may is well on course to coming true. In Delaware, patient rights and common sense have once again won the day despite the recent threats and attacks from the federal government. On to the next one!
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