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. not sure what’s worse the cock weasel US Attorneies or the spineless state govt caving into this OBVIOUSLY misguided threat to PATIENTS and law abiding state workers. It’s disgusting on both accounts !! States have the right to let their sick be medicated despite federal laws to the contrary. Stand up Gov. Jack Markell Jesus man have a freaking backbone !

    2. Buster Jones says:

      This ass-hole President is starting to get me pissed-off. He needed OUR votes to get to the White House. Now we will sit out this election,or vote for the other party. I just hope,and pray it’s Ron Paul. Peace, Buster Jones Albany, GA.

    3. Joe says:

      While I can’t blame the governor for not wanting to implement the law that permits medical marijuana, it would be just as well for him to allow it and declare formally to the state that he allows it but the Federal government does not, and that they will have to decide for themselves whether or not to risk it.

    4. Jim Rogers says:

      The law is wrong,the Obama Administration is wrong for enforcement of it.Id like to find the people who so staunchly support prohibition that they keep destroying people’s lives.These pig headed prohibitionists should be put in jail.

    5. teresa says:


    6. Salty says:

      Wow, what happened to you Obama? I say ignore everything they are saying, your citizens voted for it.

    7. cj says:

      what a crock of shit!

    8. Jon says:

      Obama and his administration is not getting a vote from me this year!

    9. The Oracle says:

      The fact that every single one of the federal politicians from MMJ states who are elected to represent the populace of their states has not signed on to legislation to get the feds the fuck out of the way demonstrates that they are beholden to special interests. As politicians near and true to the people who elect them, it is their duty to represent them even on matters that they personally would not embrace. That means they may be personally against legal cannabis, but the fact that voters in their states are for it suffices for them to promote those interests at the federal level.

      No fuckin’ balls & in some big money lobby’s pocket, for sure.