Delaware: Medical marijuana bills propose using drug to treat anxiety, letting users grow own

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With five days left in legislative session, two last-minute bills to expand medical marijuana users’ rights await consideration in the Delaware General Assembly. 

One bill would expand who has access to medical marijuana and the other would allow some approved patients to grow their own medical marijuana.

The first, SB 170, would allow permitted patients with anxiety to treat their symptoms with CBD-rich products. The bill passed the senate Tuesday afternoon with two dissenters, Senators Dave Lawson (R- SD 15) and Bryant Richardson (R- SD 21).

Despite the late introduction of the legislation on June 19, the CBD bill moved quickly through the Senate, and it now awaits consideration in the House of Representatives.

“[We] wanted to make sure it was done in a way that is backed up by the medical science,” said Bryan Townsend (D- SD 11), the Senate majority whip and the bill’s primary sponsor. “The CBD-rich product focus is backed up more by the data. The effect of THC on individuals suffering from anxiety is yet to be clearly established as a positive thing.”

CBD is a compound derived from the hemp plant that some research indicates has relaxing effects. It differs, however, from the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, THC, that creates the “high.” If passed, this regulation would still prohibit the use of THC products by patients who are only prescribed CBD.

Cannabis leaves with bottle and dropper for CBD oil

While CBD is still illegal on the federal level, this bill would expand the existing list of conditions legally treatable by medical marijuana in Delaware. A bill tried to add anxiety to the list last year, but a successful amendment blocked prevented it. 

The Department of Health and Social Services currently permits medical marijuana treatments for cancer, post traumatic stress disorder, HIV and AIDS, terminal illnesses and other conditions

“Even decriminalization of marijuana and other reforms of marijuana have largely been bipartisan the past few years, so it was no surprise [that this bill passed the senate,]” Townsend said.

Both bills appear to have bipartisan support, as the CBD bill has seven democratic sponsors and five republican sponsors, and the marijuana growth bill is sponsored by four democrats and two republicans.

Gov. John Carney said Tuesday afternoon that he supports the use of medical marijuana, but is wary of the self-grown marijuana bill.

“As they’re going through, we’ll take a look at the merits for each, but I do support that enterprise,” Carney said. “The second one sounds a little sketchy.

If passed, the “sketchy bill,” HB 243, would allow certain approved users to grow a limited amount of their own medical marijuana. The assigned committee has not yet issued a report for this bill, keeping it from a full vote in the house. 

Representative Michael Smith (R- RD 22), the bill’s primary sponsor, said he believes the bill will likely not move forward until the General Assembly reconvenes next January.

“The whole premise about the whole bill was to increase access and then save on out of pocket costs,” Smith said.

CBD oil with a scientist holding it

The cultivation bill to allow approved applicants to grow medical marijuana would limit the number of plants cultivators can have at once to 12: six immature plants and six mature ones.

These 12 plants would have to remain in an enclosed and locked area in the home of the user or their designated caregiver as they grow. If the bill passes, the Department of Health and Social Services would be allowed to randomly inspect any cultivation site twice per year.

“I think you have to, first off, start looking at it as a medication,so that’s where people need to get to,” Smith said. “I think that’s been one of terrible the misnomers about it, [that] most people don’t think of it that way.”

Smith, who is serving his first term, said the idea for this bill first blossomed during when he was campaigning for office. After hearing more from his constituents who use medical marijuana, Smith said he realized access to the drug was a problem for people with prescriptions.

Smith introduced the bill on June 20. Though he acknowledges that the bill is unlikely to move out of committee the General Assembly adjourns for the year, he hopes starting the discussion now will help spark traction for it next year.

If these bills survive until the end of session without advancing to Carney’s desk, they still have a chance of passing next year.  Any unfinished business will re-enter consideration when the legislature reconvenes, as the 150th General Assembly doesn’t officially end until next June.

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