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Delaware Senators Approve House-Passed Bill To Expand Medical Marijuana Access By Letting Patients 65+ Self-Certify Without Doctors

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Delaware senators have approved a House-passed bill to significantly expand the state’s medical marijuana program ahead of the launch of adult-use sales next year.

Nearly two months after the legislation from Rep. Ed Osienski (D) cleared the House, the Senate Health & Social Services Committee advanced the measure on Wednesday.

The bill would make a series of changes to Delaware’s medical cannabis program, including removing limitations for patient eligibility based on a specific set of qualifying health conditions. Instead, doctors could issue marijuana recommendations for any condition they see fit.

The legislation would also allow patients over the age of 65 to self-certify for medical cannabis access without the need for a doctor’s recommendation.

Sen. Sarah McBride (D), who chairs the panel, said the legislation is needed to ensure the continued existence of a patient-focused medical cannabis market as recreational legalization rolls out in the state.

“The current constraints in law would essentially result in the medical cannabis industry dying out unless we made reforms like the ones in this bill that would essentially increase the pool of patients who might be able to access the medical cannabis industry,” she said.

Paul Hyland, the state’s deputy marijuana commissioner, agreed.

“As the medical marijuana program goes through its lifecycle we’re getting closer to recreational marijuana starting. We already see patient numbers declining rapidly,” he told committee members. “This bill is aimed to help the medical marijuana program survive more of the transition.”

Removing the specific list of medical conditions “falls in line with many states that no longer say that you can only have pain, MS, cancer and things like that,” he said. “It’s more of a broad-based approach where if you’ve got a condition like restless leg syndrome, which might not be described in code, it could still be certified by a doctor.”

Allowing seniors to self-certify gives them “the ability to use the medical marijuana program without some of the hassles of seeing the doctor very year and things like that,” Hyland said.

Osienski, the House sponsor of the legidlation, also championed a pair of complementary adult-use legalization and regulation bills that Gov. Jay Carney (D) allowed to become law without his signature last year. Regulators have been releasing batches of proposed rules to stand up the market over the past couple months, with plans to finalize them in May.

Here are the key provisions of the medical cannabis expansion bill, HB 285:

  • The list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana would be removed, allowing doctors to recommend cannabis for any condition that they believe patients could benefit from.
  • Patients 65 or older could self-certify their need for medical cannabis—without any need for a recommendation from a healthcare provider.
  • It would authorize regulators to issue medical cannabis cards with 2- or 3-year terms, instead of just the current one-year term.
  • Patients diagnosed with a terminal illness, meanwhile, could qualify for a card with an “indefinite” expiration date.
  • The measure would provide patients with medical marijuana cards from other jurisdictions with the same privileges as registered in-state patients.

Meanwhile, last week the Delaware Office of the Marijuana Commissioner (OMC) released a third package of informal draft rules for the state’s forthcoming adult-use marijuana market. The latest sections relate to issues such as cannabis testing, sampling, disposal, variances and fee schedules.

For its initial batch of rules last month, the office provided a basic framework for various cannabis business license types and requirements for the application process. That was followed with regulations on tracking, transportation, health standards, packaging and advertising.

Meanwhile, Osienski also recently said the state should consider cleanup legislation this session to help “get the industry up and running.”


Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,400 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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Last year, after the passage of his two bills to legalize cannabis, Osienski gave advice to lawmakers in other states who are pushing for marijuana reform.

“The key was just to keep plugging away at it and see what the other states have done and see what works best for your state,” he said last May.

He also advised legislators to sit down with “affected state agencies” like the Departments of Health, Finance and Agriculture.

“We had to sit down through meeting after meeting to try to work out a lot of the issues,” he said.

Separately, the Delaware Senate separately approved a resolution last March that urges the state’s congressional representatives to support legislation to end federal cannabis prohibition.

In 2022, Carney vetoed a more narrowly tailored bill that would have clarified that medical marijuana patients are not prohibited from buying, possessing or transferring firearms under state law.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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