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Delaware Lawmakers Seeking Support For Updates in Medical Marijuana Laws

One bill seeks to allow home-grows while the other focuses on Second Amendment rights.

Vermont Town May Vote to Ban Medical Cannabis Dispensaries
Teri Virbickis/ Shutterstock

DOVER, Del. (AP) — The sponsor of a bill allowing medical marijuana patients in Delaware to grow their own pot said Wednesday that he was tabling the measure to buy time to gain support for the proposal.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Michael Smith allows a patient to have up to six mature plants and six immature plants. Designated caregivers could cultivate marijuana for no more than three qualifying patients.

The home growing operations would be subject to tracking and monitoring and would have to comply with specific conditions, including growing the plants in an enclosed, locked facility with an electrical system that meets state and local codes. The bill also allows landlords, homeowners associations, or common interest communities to prohibit the cultivation of marijuana.

“I’d rather work to improve the bill versus having it dead on arrival right now,” Smith, R-Newark, said at the start of a House committee hearing Wednesday.

Smith did not offer details on what sort of opposition his proposal is facing, although allowing medical marijuana users to grow their own plants could result in less revenue for state-licensed “compassionate care centers,” serving Delaware’s growing number of medical marijuana users. In fiscal 2019, state officials issued 12,045 medical marijuana registration cards, almost double the 6,625 issued the previous year.

Meanwhile, members of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to release a bill aimed at ensuring that a person is not prohibited under state law from possessing or buying a firearm simply because he or she is a medical marijuana user.

Chief sponsor Sen. Anthony Delcollo, R-Elsmere, called it a miscarriage of justice to treat people who are sick and want to use medical marijuana to alleviate their symptoms as “second class citizens.”

While medical marijuana users would still be prohibited under federal law from buying or transferring firearms, Delcollo said his bill would offer protection against prosecution for existing gun owners who use medical marijuana, and medical marijuana users who might inherit a gun from a family member.

Bill supporters also note that if the spouse of a gun owner becomes a medical marijuana user, the gun owner could face prosecution under Delaware’s new “safe storage” law if he didn’t take steps to ensure that his spouse couldn’t get access to a gun.

“It’s crazy that this is the only medicine that causes me to lose my Second Amendment rights,” said Kim Petters, a mother of four and Air Force veteran who uses medical marijuana to help her cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Adam Windett, a criminal defense attorney in Dover, said there’s a misperception, both among the public and within the law enforcement community, that medical marijuana users are not allowed to have guns. But he said the legislation could help clarify matters and protect medical marijuana users from unnecessary arrest and prosecution.

Windett, who is also a cofounder and director of Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network, noted that Delaware’s criminal code prohibits possession of a semiautomatic or automatic firearm, or a handgun, while also possessing a controlled substance. But he said possession of cannabis by registered patients in compliance with the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act does not violate the state’s controlled substances law.

Windett also noted that even if the criminal code was incorrectly interpreted to apply to medical marijuana users, it only prohibits the purchase certain types of firearms.

“Such a prohibition would not apply to bolt-action rifles, pump rifles, lever action rifles, muzzleloaders, or shotguns,” he said. “As a matter of public policy, a selective prohibition regarding the possession of certain types of firearms by medical cannabis patients serves no logical purpose.”

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