Del. considers allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana for most maladies

Only Maine and Oklahoma give doctors as much leeway in prescribing medical marijuana as this legislation would in Delaware. (Brennan Linsley/AP Photo)

Only Maine and Oklahoma give doctors as much leeway in prescribing medical marijuana as this legislation would in Delaware. (Brennan Linsley/AP Photo)

Delaware doctors would have much more leeway in prescribing medical marijuana under a new proposal in Dover.

The state’s existing medical marijuana law, passed in 2011, restricts doctors to a set list of “debilitating conditions” for medical marijuana treatment. It includes terminal illness, cancer, or glaucoma.

Republican state Sen. Anthony Delcollo wants to update that law to give doctors the power to determine what ailments could be alleviated by medical marijuana.

“I think that those professionals who go to school and get educated to make those calls, and address the needs of their patients are the ones that are most well-suited to addressing whether or not prescribing medical marijuana for a given malady would be an appropriate thing to do,” Delcollo said.

So instead of a list of specific ailments, Senate Bill 24 would allow marijuana prescriptions for patients with any condition for which the drug “is likely to provide a therapeutic or palliative benefit.”

Delcollo said he’s heard from many constituents — including veterans with PTSD — about the need for this legislation.

“Every once in a while, you have to adjust the way that things are done and make sure that you’re serving people as well as you can,” Delcollo said. “If there is a legitimate basis to prescribe this … then that medical professional should be able to do that like they would with any number of other medication.”

Medical marijuana advocates say the change is long overdue and should have been included in the original legislation eight years ago.

“Doctors are educated for an extended amount of time and have experience and should be able to use their discretion on who could benefit from a medical cannabis card in the state of Delaware,” said Zoe Patchell of the Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network.

The proposed bill would also remove limits on the types of specialists who could approve medical marijuana use for patients under 18. Those younger patients would still be limited to using marijuana oil.

The bill has bipartisan sponsorship, and Delcollo said he hopes it will get a robust hearing.

Only Maine and Oklahoma give doctors as much leeway as this legislation would create in Delaware.

Delaware’s rollout of medical marijuana hasn’t been smooth. There were delays in opening compassion centers where patients could fill their medical marijuana prescriptions. Since then, four dispensaries are operating — two in New Castle County, one in Kent, and one in Sussex.

State lawmakers recently considered legalizing marijuana for recreational use in the face of opposition from Gov. John Carney, a Democrat. After more than a year of debate, a bill to legalize marijuana lost by just four votes in the state House in June. In January, Democratic state Sen. Trey Paradee called it “inevitable” that marijuana would be legalized. He said then he planned to sponsor a bill to accomplish that in this legislative session.

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