Guest view: Medical marijuana moved to back of bus with HB 110

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By Bill Freeborn

HB 110 seeks to legalize recreational adult-use marijuana at the expense of Delaware medical use patients.

Since 2011, Delaware’s medical marijuana industry has been controlled by just three companies. Two of the state’s current operators are from New Jersey and New York. The lone business with Delaware ties was financed and built by operators from Rhode Island. Simply put, actual Delawareans have seen little economic benefit from the so-called Green Rush. This is especially true in the City of Wilmington, which perhaps bares the deepest scars from the failed War on Drugs. Despite being the economic and population center of the state, no cannabis businesses have opened within the city limits within the nine years the law has been on the books.

The legalization of medical cannabis comes from the simple belief that patients should be afforded access to safe, effective medicine without being treated as criminals. This is a powerful message that was embraced with the passage of the original medical marijuana law, and Riley’s Law, which allows pediatric specialists to recommend cannabis oil for children suffering from epilepsy and other serious disorders. Additionally, in 2015, the act was amended to allow for and embrace high level medical research within Delaware. While many seem to incorrectly view medical marijuana as a mere stepping stone to full legalization, there are thousands of Delawareans who see medical cannabis as a lifesaving alternative to highly addictive opiate painkillers. To the parents of Delaware children who use cannabis oil to control near-constant seizures, it is truly a miracle.

Since 2015 with the opening of the first dispensary, the Delaware medical marijuana patient population has grown. Last year it doubled. And this year, it is expected to double again. The population of medical users is currently 0.9% of the state’s total population. In states with more mature programs (e.g., Arizona or Rhode Island) medical marijuana patients represent at minimum 3.0% of the total population. This means that Delaware’s medical marijuana program will continue to grow until it hits roughly 30,000, or more, patients. It currently stands at just over 9,000 patients. Current supply simply can’t meet the anticipated growth in medically-prescribed patient needs.

Recently, Representative Ed Osienski and Senator Trey Paradee introduced HB 110, designed to legalize recreational or adult-use cannabis in the state, converting existing medical dispensaries into recreational stores. The bill fails to consider the impact this will have on an already limited supply of medical marijuana.

This effort is being led by the out of state interests that now control the Delaware medical market. The legislation is crafted clearly to protect their interests and to prevent further expansion of the Delaware medical market, while providing nearly exclusive rights to the three companies that currently exist. With the current suppliers unable to properly meet the demand of the growing patient population, it is not right to put at risk the medical needs of Delaware’s children, Veterans and other prescribed adult users who have come to rely on this amazing and non-addictive medical miracle.

Editor’s note: Freeborn has been involved with the medical marijuana effort since the fall of 2014. While working as a consultant for an international research organization with a US location in Newark, his team saw the opportunity to conduct high-level product research on cannabinoids and their interaction with the human body. He notes that little true research has been conducted for cannabis. and hemp product extractions. The future of the industry lies with the ability to understand how product extractions can be put to use.

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