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

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 14, 2012

    [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 Responses to “Delaware: Federal Threats Halt Plans To Implement State’s Nascent Medicinal Cannabis Law”

    1. If you live in Connecticut and want to end marijuana prohibition in our state, please take a minute to visit http://www.ctprimaryproject.com.

      Please pass this on to anyone you know in Connecticut!

    2. primaryobjectivehitthebong says:

      Our Governor is a (expletive deleted) who bows down before Obama because he doesn’t have any cojones. I’ve lived here my whole life, so to have this Benedict Arnold turn tale when his boss says he’s out of line, disgraces my home of delaware and I will not condone this.

    3. Mike says:

      We keep fight and the government will eventually give up. They can try their hardest to keep marijuana illegal, but we will succeed. Even if one state legalizes the rest will follow.

      Stay positive and nothing can stand in our way.

    4. Alexander Walls says:

      This is the EXACT reason why we need to petition the federal governments law. We need to go over their heads, we have to pass them at their own game. TAKE EM TO COURT.

      there is enough governors and senators in office right now against keeping cannabis illegal that they could do this. We need to stop silently letting this happen, we need to start the war against the drug war. Remember that Regan once said the last thing we want is the government saying that they are here to help us. I thought about this long and hard today, if history has taught us anything, Capitalism has ALWAYS been the problem.
      Communism, Socialism, Capitalism, it all rapes the rights of citizens and unfairly dictates what HUMANS can do. They are NOT our fathers, and they most certainly are NOT our friends.
      The government needs a reset button.

    5. Jbkorn02 says:

      Not much to say other than people are going to have to keep breaking laws. I think I’m gonna get really really drunk tonight. That’s totally ok with Obama. Maybe even start up cigarettes

    6. Pissed Off says:

      When do I get my barcode tat?

    7. TylerT says:

      Way to stand up to the bullies Delaware.

    8. RT says:

      Deleware your a bunch of P***ys. stand up to the federal gov’t and tell them we dont care what you think! Ever heard of states rights? Why don’t you stand up for them for once?

    9. Felix says:

      That was a close one, people almost got medicine and started planting trees.

    10. Amaterasu says:

      Start a petition! Tell TPTB that We will not accept this!

      Twitter: @AmaterasuSolar

    Leave a Reply