Delaware: Federal Threats Halt Plans To Implement State’s Nascent Medicinal Cannabis Law

[Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from this week’s forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML’s news alerts and legislative advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up here.]

Democrat Gov. Jack Markell has abruptly halted plans to implement legislation passed in 2011 that allows qualified patients to obtain marijuana from state-licensed facilities.

Governor Markell had initially signed the law, Senate Bill 17, The Delaware Medical Marijuana Act, last May. Under the law, patients with a qualifying illness may legally possess up to six ounces of cannabis, provided they obtained it from a state-licensed, not-for-profit ‘compassion center.’ State regulators were anticipated to begin licensing marijuana producers and distributors later this year.

On Friday, Gov. Markell announced that he was suspending the program because his office had received a letter from the Obama Justice Department alleging that it would subject those licensed under the law, as well as public servants, to federal criminal prosecution.

States the letter, authored by US Attorney Charles M. Oberly III, “[G]rowing, distributing and possessing marijuana, in any capacity, other than as part of a federally authorized research program, is a violation of federal law regardless of state laws permitting such activities. Moreover, those who engage in financial transactions involving the proceeds of such activities may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes.”

The letter further threatens, “State employees who conduct activities mandated by the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act are not immune from liability under” the Controlled Substances Act.

Justice Department officials sent similar letters to lawmakers and governors in states considering related legislation last spring. Shortly after receiving the letters, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed legislation that sought to allow for licensed cannabis dispensaries in that state. Soon thereafter, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee also nixed regulations allowing for the state-licensed production and distribution of cannabis.

In a statement issued by Gov. Markell on Friday, he claimed that the federal government left him with no choice but to suspend the law’s implementation. “To do otherwise would put our state employees in legal jeopardy, and I will not do that,” he said.

In response to the Governor’s actions, sponsors of the law have suggested amending the Medical Marijuana Act to allow for qualified patients to cultivate cannabis at home, a practice that is presently allowed under state law in 14 other states.

To date, three states – Colorado, Maine, and New Mexico – have issued licenses to allow for the state-sanctioned production and distribution of cannabis. So far, programs in those states have operated largely without federal interference.

Similar licensing legislation approved in recent years in Arizona, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington, DC has yet to be implemented by local lawmakers.

75 thoughts

  1. Delaware is such a small state,i think we could have a good program. Obama lied period! Growing a few plant’s is one way to get around this.It’s up to people in charge and how much courage they have. Time will tell for Gods sake do the right thing!

  2. I believe the only chance of having the Fed. agree to medical marijuana, is to have a doctor prescribe the right for a patient to grow enough medician for their medical condition,get the seeds for a pharmacy and register with the Local Law Enforcement agency.I’m just looking for a way the Fed. would agree with, so I can get rid of the four prescriptions I’m on for my pain associated with my deteriorating arthritis in my lower spine.

  3. Unfortunately, the states that are being threatened by the feds that they will arrest government employees in state-run medical marijuana programs will have to get fed up and rewrite their laws so that government employees will not be arrested by the feds. The only way to do that is to go the California route and allow a caregiver to be a medical marijuana patient or the person or persons designated by a medical marijuana patient. And, a legitimate medical marijuana patient needs only a doctor’s recommendation and nothing official from the state. If you keep the state out of it and make them not cooperate with the feds, you will have actual medical marijuana in states such as RI, DE, NJ, MT, MI, etc.

    Right now the states are MMJ states in name only. The patients’ needs are NOT being met under the currently written state laws, because the state, which was the intended provider, is not providing the patients with their medicine or a means to keep their professional licensing from the state, etc.

  4. OK! Then let them come in and arrest the state employees who are part of the cannabis regulation department. Starting from the governor and working right down the line! Nothing would start a serious debate on the subject like a governor and state employees in jail for doing what their constituants want them to do! We just need a governor with the GUTS to do what needs to be done! It does not matter which state the governor is from. If the governors of all the states would tell Washington to back off and leave the state’s business to the states, maybe we could get somewhere!!!

    This is actually about more than just weed. It is about a totalitarian government trying to rule with an iron fist regardless of what the people want. We are on a very slippery slope right now America. Either fight back against the feds or accept their will and become slaves!

  5. Let me see if I’ve got this straight; if the majority of the citizens of any of our 50 states votes to rid themselves of un-constitutional, unjust, outdated, wicked, imbicilic, moronic (etc.) laws of any sort the Feds can simply nullify the vote they disapprove of and let pass the ones they do approve? If that’s the case, what is the use of state governments, legislators, bureaucrats, etc. except as lapdogs & lackeys of Washington? Come to think of it- what’s the point of voting if it’s all a scam to project an illusion of freedom and self-determiation?

  6. I guess the FEDS are happy with the illegal distribution of marijuana and have a hidden agenda that is good for them

  7. Also, in any state in this country people can purchase illegal drugs and the FEDS do little to stop the street crime. Yet they are threatening states that want to do it legally and for medical reasons. So, the FEDS will waste our tax dollars to go against us. The PHARNACUTICAL COMPANIES must lobby very well at the FEDERAL LEVEL. Obama needs to set the FEDS strait and stop the interference.

  8. since starting smoking marijuana I no longer have to take …blood pressure medicine …..anxiety medicine …..and pain medication …..and if everyone did that it would really hurt the pharmaceutical business ..and a pharmaceutical companies have too much money invested in federal government to let that happen ….but I will continue to smoke it instead of taking PILLS……

  9. and by the way I grew up with Joe and he is not a criminal …he just want some relief for his medical condition like all of us do that have medical conditions that need relief for our medical conditions ….so governor Markel get a set of balls and tell the federal government to F_ _ _ off …

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