Delaware is set to make significant changes to its medical cannabis program that would benefit patients who rely on the plant for therapeutic or palliative purposes. The state’s House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would remove the requirement of having a debilitating medical condition to qualify for a registry identification card. Instead, health care providers would be able to certify any patient who they believe would benefit from the use of medical cannabis.
Bill Aims to Remove Outdated Restrictions and Barriers
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski, a Democrat, was crafted based on the feedback from medical cannabis patients who identified numerous ways to improve the program. “HB 285 recognizes the need to remove outdated restrictions and breaks down the barriers that hinder patients who could truly benefit from improved access to medical marijuana,” Osienski said in a press release.
The bill would also allow for flexible expiration dates on registry identification cards, which are authorized documents that enable patients to acquire, deliver, possess, and transfer medical cannabis. Patients could choose either one-, two-, or three-year expiration dates. In cases where a patient has a terminal illness, the bill would allow for an identification card to be issued with an indefinite expiration date.
Bill Receives Bipartisan Support in the House
The bill passed the House in a 22-10 vote, with four Republicans joining the majority of Democrats in favor of the proposal. The bill now moves to the Senate, where a companion version has been sponsored by Sen. Kyra Hoffner, also a Democrat. Hoffner said that the bill would empower patients and their health care providers to make decisions about the treatments that best fit their needs.
“With the full legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis last year, Rep. Osienski, Sen. Trey Paradee and I agree that it is time to update our medical marijuana law and make it easier for the people who rely on these products to get the therapy that they need,” Hoffner said. “These changes will make those treatments more readily accessible for our neighbors with the greatest need. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to send this legislation to the Governor’s desk.”
Delaware Prepares for Adult-Use Cannabis Sales
Delaware legalized adult-use cannabis last year, becoming the 19th state to do so. However, state-licensed stores are not expected to open until 2025, as the state needs to set up a regulatory framework and a licensing system for the industry. Lawmakers voted last year to allocate an initial $4.1 million budget for rolling out the adult-use cannabis program.
The medical cannabis program, which was established in 2011, currently serves about 20,000 patients in the state. There are six dispensaries operating in the state, with two more expected to open this year. The program allows patients to possess up to six ounces of cannabis and grow up to six plants at home.