Delaware, which passed medical marijuana back in 2011, is finally opening a dispensary — more than four years after passage of its law. It has taken the state so long to open a single dispensary, in fact, that the medical exemptions of about 100 card-carrying patients have already expired. Delaware’s Division of Public Health has been contacting card holders to notify them of the new dispensary and invite them to an orientation session.
Hundreds Wait Four Years for Relief
About 340 patients in Delaware suffering from conditions like Alzheimer’s, PTSD, severe pain, and seizures are registered with the state. They have been waiting nearly half a decade for Delaware to get its act together and provide safe access according to its own law.
How many patients have suffered for more than 50 months without medicine? Although the state has a population of just shy of a million residents, surely more would be utilizing the program if safe access locations were available in their own communities.
Despite the pathetically sluggish rollout of its medical cannabis program, there are reasons for some of Delaware’s sick and ailing to celebrate. Not only is the state’s first dispensary opening on June 26, but in early June the Diamond State also opened its medical cannabis program to children suffering from “seizures, severe pain, or intractable nausea, among other conditions.”
“The Division of Public Health is pleased at the opening of First State Compassion Center and looks forward to working with cardholders and their caregivers over the next few months,”
said Emily Knearl, a Delaware public health spokesperson.
Nation’s Most Neglected Marijuana Law
Although the law has protected patients from prosecution who have obtained a doctor recommendation and registered with the state, it has also forced them into the black market. High prices, uncertain quality, no knowledge of whether they are getting an indica or sativa strain, and, of course, the dangers of sometimes dealing with criminal elements have plagued Delaware’s patients for much longer than most have anticipated.
“We’re thrilled there’s finally going to be some access for patients in Delaware,”
said Robert Capecchi, deputy director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
More Stupid Decisions
Dragging its heels on opening a single dispensary isn’t the only thing of which Delaware is guilty regarding its medical cannabis program. MPP’s Capecchi also stressed the state’s need to allow the new dispensary to produce more marijuana. Currently, the center is permitted to grow only 150 plants, an arbitrary and needlessly low number that is a seeming malicious attempt to hobble the program and prevent citizens from gaining safe access.
Even with its currently low enrollment numbers, less than half a plant’s yield would be available to current enrollees every grow cycle. If new crops are available about every 12 weeks (assuming time for drying, curing, and possible lab testing) — and plants yield, on average, about two ounces of medicine — each patient would have access to only about an ounce of cannabis every three months. With very sick patients of multiple sclerosis and epilepsy sometimes consuming up to an ounce every week, some patients will obviously be forced back to the black market if Delaware’s single dispensary is unable to satisfy their needs.
Illegal Number of Dispensaries
While the opening of a single dispensary is certainly good news for those in Delaware who have waited so long for legal medicine (and who find the lone dispensary center to be within a reasonable driving distance), Capecchi said the state’s medical cannabis law obligates it to open dispensaries in each county. With only three counties, it will be interesting to see how long it takes the state to open two additional centers. The objective math says all three centers should be open by 2023.
Hopefully Delaware state officials can do better in the future. Its sick citizens will needlessly suffer — and it will be in violation of its own law — until more dispensaries are opened.
Is Delaware’s illegal procrastination at implementing its own law a hypocritical affront to sick patients who have needlessly suffered?
Patients in Delaware: Let your voice be heard in the comments below.
photo credit: talkofthetown.com