Delaware's first medical marijuana dispensary will open on June 26, more than four years after lawmakers and Gov. Jack Markell first legalized pot for medicinal use.
The First State Compassion Center, located at 37 Germay Drive outside of Wilmington, will open
from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on June 26. Patient orientations are planned for June 18 and June 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Patients attending the events, and the dispensary's opening, must be registered medical marijuana cardholders with the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services and preregister for the orientations
Some 340 Delawareans carry cards that allow them to use marijuana to treat a variety of conditions, and purchase marijuana at the dispensary when it opens later this month. Lawmakers in Dover on Thursday took another step, opening Delaware's medical marijuana program to minors suffering seizures, severe pain or intractable nausea, among other conditions.
"The Division of Public Health is pleased at the opening of First State Compassion Center and looks forward to working with cardholders and their caregivers over the next few months as we update and issue new medical marijuana cards," said Emily Knearl, a state public health spokeswoman.
Knearl said the health department is reaching out to patients whose cards have expired to notify them of the dispensary's opening. About 100 patients have applications pending with the department, or have seen their ID cards expire.
Under state law, and with certification from a doctor, Delawareans can use marijuana to treat symptoms associated with cancer; Alzheimer's disease; post-traumatic stress disorder; and conditions that cause intractable nausea, severe pain or seizures, among other illnesses.
On Thursday, lawmakers in the Delaware House of Representatives unanimously gave final approval to legislation that will allow, with Gov. Jack Markell's signature, minors to obtain marijuana-based oils for medical treatment. The Senate passed the legislation last month. Markell is expected to sign the bill.
Delawareans under 18 with intractable epilepsy will have access to marijuana-based oils under the legislation..
Minors who have struggled to find successful treatment for cachexia or wasting syndrome; intractable nausea; or severe, painful and persistent muscle spasms also could gain access to the oils for treatment, with certification from a doctor.
Delawareans would obtain the oils from dispensaries licensed by the state, like the one planning to open later this month.
"We're thrilled there's finally going to be some access for patients in Delaware," Robert Capecchi, deputy director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said of the center's planned opening this month. "For really sick people, this could mean all the difference in the world."
Ahead of the dispensary's opening, patients are protected from prosecution for possessing marijuana but have been forced to buy the drug on the black market.
Capecchi said the state should open dispensaries in each county, as required under Delaware's medical marijuana law.
And he called for loosening restrictions on how much marijuana can be grown in any one center, saying the limits are arbitrarily low and could adversely impact access. The dispensary will only be allowed to cultivate up to 150 marijuana plants, and keep inventory of no more than 1,500 ounces of the drug.