Delaware lawmaker urging governor to re-think medical marijuana stance

Following the unexpected suspension of Delaware’s medical marijuana law this week, state Senator Margaret Rose Henry is encouraging Gov. Jack Markell to reconsider.

The governor put the kibosh on any forward progress to set up marijuana dispensaries in the state because of federal legal jargon Markell fears makes state employees vulnerable to prosecution.

According to a News Journal article, U.S. Attorney Charles Oberly III wrote a letter to Markell’s office stating, “Growing, 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.”

That last part seemed to be the final nail in the coffin, according the newspaper. Markell’s office was cited as saying Oberly’s interpretation of the Department of Justice’s stance on marijuana prevents Delaware’s Department of Health and Social Services from licensing medical marijuana dispensaries, therefore killing the project. 

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While state Sen. Margaret Rose Henry appreciates the governor’s concern, in a statement released Thursday, the bill’s primary sponsor said she is “not convinced of the underlying legal issue. I believe it would be unfair to put state employees at risk of prosecution on federal drug charges for providing chronically ill Delawareans with the help they need to ease their suffering.  At the same time, it is time to respond to the needs of Delaware patients.”

Consequently, Henry is urging the governor to allow the regulatory and licensing process to continue, while the search for a solution continues. 

“Delaware did not act alone, there are several states with operational medical marijuana programs that have not experienced Federal intervention,” said Sen. Henry, who also plans to address the issue with the Obama administration.

Defending Delaware’s program, Sen. Henry said the statewide program used what was learned from the mistakes of other states to develop a highly restrictive and tightly regulated program.

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