|Photo: THC Finder|
The bill would allow adults with debilitating illnesses such as HIV or cancer to get authorization from their doctors to buy marijuana from state-licensed dispensaries, reports Chad Livengood at Delaware Online.
On an 18-3 vote, the Senate sent Senate Bill 17 to the House, where supporters believe there are enough votes to get the bill to Gov. Jack Markell's desk for a signature. Of course, there were a few alarmists who claimed the bill puts Delaware on the path towards legalizing marijuana altogether, as if that'd be the end of the world.
"If you don't think this is a step in that eventual process you are sorely mistaken," said Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Dover South).
Gov. Markell, a Democrat, supports the concept of the bill and the changes that have been made to address concerns by doctors and law enforcement agencies, according to his spokesman, Brian Selander.
"There's a long road between the concept of providing medical marijuana to people with medical needs like cancer patients and the implementation of that effort," Selander said.
Lawmakers in neighboring Pennsylvania and Maryland are currently considering similar legislation to legalize medical marijuana. Fifteen other states and the District of Columbia have already done so.
"This is really out of compassion for people who have been suffering unnecessarily," said Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington), the bill's sponsor.
After the bill passed, Sen. Henry handed out packages of brownies from BJ's Wholesale Club, joking about the use of "pot brownies" as an edible form of marijuana.
"They were just regular brownies," Henry said afterward. "It was done in jest and not to take away from the seriousness of the bill."
Under the bill, patients with qualifying illnesses would be issued ID cards which would entitle them to buy up to six ounces of marijuana each month. Cannabis could only be bought from a dispensary, and home cultivation, unfortunately, would not be allowed. (When, oh when, are the patients in these new medical states going to state up against the unhealthy trend of prohibiting people from growing their own medicine?)
Qualifying conditions would include cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, post-traumatic stress disorder, glaucoma, Crohn's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease or other chronic wasting diseases.
Republicans Joseph Booth, David Lawson and Colin Bonini were the only three senators who voted against the bill.
Department of Safety and Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Liz Olsen claimed her agency and the Delaware State Police remain neutral on the bill. But law enforcement officials have insisted that police have access to a database that tracks marijuana sales at the dispensaries, according to Olsen.
Support in the Democratic-controlled House is reportedly hinging on convincing retired police officers who are state representatives that the benefits outweigh the supposed problems of having two different marijuana laws in Delaware.
House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach), a retired state police captain, said he hadn't read the bill yet, but he's convinced marijuana "does have medicinal value."
Rep. Dennis P. Williams (D-Wilmington North), a former Wilmington police detective ,said "times have changed," and that the stigma of marijuana use is fading with recognition of its medicinal value.
"There's some people in this building who smoked marijuana," Williams said. "They just won't admit it."