Medical marijuana bill moves forward

In his battles with viral meningitis, HIV and inflammatory bowel disease, Dover resident Chris Grogan has suffered what he calls unspeakable pain.

“I can’t begin to describe it,” he said.

Grogan, 53, says the only thing that helped him manage the pain was marijuana. And while he is currently pain free, he says he wouldn’t hesitate to use it again. If that day comes, Grogan says he hopes marijuana, used for medical purposes, will be legal.

Grogan told his story to the Delaware State Senate’s health and social services committee Wednesday at Legislative Hall in Dover in support of legislation that would legalize medical marijuana.

Senate Bill 17 would allow Delaware patients suffering from several serious illnesses to receive medical marijuana upon the recommendations of their doctors.

The bill is now headed for floor debate, with a possible vote scheduled for March 31.

Similar legislation introduced last year also cleared committee but never made it to the floor.

“Patients should have a choice of how they treat their pain,” Grogan said. “And right now we don’t have that choice. And there is, from my own personal experience, proof that it does work.”

Fifteen states and Washington, D.C. already have passed laws that allow the medical use of marijuana to treat patients suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases.

Unlike other states’ medical marijuana laws, the Delaware bill would not allow patients to grow their own cannabis. Instead, the law would set up three dispensaries, one in each county, which would grow and distribute the drug.

The purpose of Wednesday’s hearing was to present testimony for and against the measure. Many, suffering from painful diseases, testified as to how marijuana has eased their pain. Others expressed fear of criminal prosecution.

And though they were outnumbered at the hearing by a 4-to-1 margin, there were some who raised concerns over the legislation, including Lewes Police Chief Jeff Horvath, who opened his statements by saying he was “not here as a hard-nosed cop.”

Horvath, who is also Vice-Chairman of the Delaware Police Chiefs Council, said his main concern was that the passage of the bill would send the wrong message to our children.

“There were a lot of negative effects of marijuana that weren’t talked about in there,” Horvath said following the hearing. “Our concern is that it’s going to change society. Our kids are going to be using it more.”

Others said such a bill would cause more harm than good, and would present a public safety risk.

Based on some of those concerns, State Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington East), the bill’s primary sponsor, said the bill will likely undergo some tweaking before it hits the Senate floor for debate.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.