Delaware Set to Approve Medical Marijuana

The Delaware General Assembly on Wednesday (May 11) gave final approval to a bill legalizing medical marijuana in the state, and Governor Jack Markell says he will sign it. If he does, Delaware will become the 16th state to approve the drug for medical purposes, but the development comes at a highly uncertain time for the movement.

As Stateline noteed earlier this week , the federal government — which does not allow medical marijuana use — is cracking down in the states that do, carrying out raids and threatening to prosecute everyone from licensed growers to state regulators. Warning letters have been sent to officials in Arizona, California, California and Rhode Island. The crackdown comes despite the Obama administration's stated position in 2009 not to spend resources going after medical marijuana, and it has caused plenty of consternation on the part of state officials.

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, for example, recently vetoed a bill that would have greatly expanded the availability of medical marijuana in the state. Gregoire expressed reservations about the new federal crackdown on the drug, specifically citing a federal warning that state regulators could be targeted for prosecution if the bill became law. "The landscape has changed," Gregoire said .

In Delaware, lawmakers hope to avoid legal trouble by passing "one of the strictest medical marijuana laws in the country, regulating everything from the quality of the cannabis to how it is transported," The News Journal of Wilmington notes . "Unlike residents in other states, ill Delawareans who get a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana would not be allowed to grow their own at home. They would be supplied only through state-licensed dispensaries."

The supply side of the marijuana marijuana industry has drawn the most scrutiny from the federal government, and Delaware hopes to distinguish itself from California, where thousands of private marijuana dispensaries are in operation around the state.

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