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Cannabis in Delaware is illegal for recreational use, though decriminalized for possession of small amounts. The use of marijuana for medical purposes is permitted for adult patients with certain serious illnesses.
Medical cannabis (2011)
In May 2011, Governor Jack Markell signed legislation allowing patients 18 and older with "certain serious or debilitating conditions" to use cannabis, and possess up to six ounces. Qualifying conditions include "cancer; Alzheimer's disease; post-traumatic stress disorder; and conditions that cause intractable nausea, severe pain or seizures, among other illnesses." In addition to having a qualifying condition, patients must obtain a card for a $125 fee, and the card must be renewed once a year. Delaware Division of Public Health data on patients who received marijuana cards in 2015, showed that the primary medical condition being treated for cardholders was pain (36.3%), muscle spasms (21.6%), and cancer (9.3%).
The first medical marijuana clinic in Delaware opened in Wilmington in June 2015. As of that date, some 340 Delaware residents held cards from the Delaware Health and Social Services, allowing them to purchase marijuana in order to treat their medical conditions. However, as of 2016, medical-marijuana cardholders still struggled to obtain the drug, with many being forced to pay very high prices, to buy the drug on the street, or to drive very long distances to obtain the drug.
The medical marijuana legislation provided that all three of the state's counties — New Castle, Kent, and Sussex — must have a Compassion Center by January 1, 2013. However, only a single facility (the Wilmington facility in New Castle County) has opened as of 2016.
In June 2015, Governor Markell signed legislation decriminalizing the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana by adults. Possession of marijuana remains a civil infraction that carries a $100 fine. The bill passed along party lines, with no Republican member of the House or Senate voting in support of the bill. Under the legislation, it remains illegal for minors (persons under age 21) to possess marijuana. Additionally, smoking marijuana "in a moving vehicle, in public areas, or outdoors on private property within 10 feet [3 m] of a street, sidewalk or other area accessible to the public" is also a misdemeanor.
The decriminalization bill took effect in December 2015.
There have been a few attempts to legalize marijuana in Delaware, starting back in 2017 by State Rep. Helene Keeley. But such bills failed to receive the required number of votes in the Delaware legislature. Some Democratic colleagues abstained from the vote, citing concerns over the bills cost.
The most recent push to legalize Recreational marijuana in Delaware was picked up by State Rep. Ed Osienski, who attempted to get a bill passed during the 2020 general assembly session, but failed due to a lack of votes and because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Osienski re-worked the bill to introduce it during the 2021 legislative session. Some of those changes included adding a 'social equity' and micro business license, which Osienski says "they’ll get some additional help with applying and some reduction in fees."
- "Delaware governor signs bill making it the 16th state to legalize medical marijuana". Associated Press. May 13, 2011.
- Karl Baker, Delaware's first medical cannabis clinic opens, The News Journal (June 26, 2015).
- Jessica Masulli Reyes & Jen Rini, Delaware medical marijuana patients in limbo, The News Journal (September 4, 2016).
- "Markell signs Delaware marijuana decriminalization bill". The News Journal. June 18, 2015.
- Marijuana Decriminalization Law Takes Effect in Delaware, Associated Press (December 18, 2015).
- Dawson, James (March 19, 2017). "Bill legalizing recreational marijuana hitting Dover". Delaware Public Media.
- Mueller, Sarah (June 27, 2018). "Legislation legalizing recreational pot fails in Delaware House". Delaware Public Media.
- Battaglia, Roman (February 26, 2021). "Is Delaware poised to make recreational marijuana legal?". Delaware Public Media.