Delaware’s new medical marijuana law is so loaded with red tape that experts in other states predict it could be at least 18 months before people who are seriously ill or suffering from chronic pain can obtain pot legally here.
Experiences of advocates in other states who have ventured into the risky business of growing and distributing a drug the federal government still deems illegal illustrate the bureaucratic hurdles that lie ahead.
Medical marijuana operators across the country say there are tremendous financial, logistical, societal and bureaucratic issues to resolve before marijuana seeds can even be planted legally.
Delaware’s law, Senate Bill 17, requires the Department of Health and Social Services to start seeking applications for operating three medical marijuana dispensaries by July 1, 2012, and issue licenses to the highest-scoring applicants in each county six months later.
If state officials use the entire 18 months allotted under the law, it could be spring 2013 before the first crop of marijuana buds are ready to be harvested, experts say.
“I would be shocked if they were able to implement one year after passage of the legislation,” said Steve DeAngelo, a dispensary operator in Oakland, Calif., and consultant for medical marijuana programs across the country.
When Gov. Jack Markell signed the medical marijuana bill into law in May, supporters envisioned million-dollar facilities selling the drug to Delawareans with qualifying conditions sometime next year.
Authors of Delaware’s law now acknowledge, however, it may take longer than originally projected to create a highly regulated industry from the ground up.
“It’s not something that any of us want DHSS to rush into,” said Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington South, who co-sponsored the law. “I want to make sure that we get it right from day one.”
In nearby New Jersey, where DeAngelo has been a consultant, 20 months have passed since the Garden State legalized medical marijuana and sales aren’t likely to begin until early next year — at the earliest.
“So far not a single patient ID card has been issued,” said Ken Wolski, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey, where just a handful of doctors have registered with the state to be able to recommend marijuana usage.
– Read the entire article at Delaware Online.