The Delaware House passed legislation Jan. 25 that would expand medical cannabis access in the state, in part, by giving health care providers discretion over medical cannabis recommendations.
Introduced Dec. 14 by Democratic Rep. Ed Osienski, House Bill 285 would rework the framework of the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act to remove barriers to entry for patients, including changes to how medical cannabis cards are issued.
The legislation would eliminate a requirement that a patient must have a debilitating medical condition to qualify for Delaware’s medical cannabis program; instead, health care providers would be able to determine if a patient has a medical condition that would benefit from medical cannabis use.
H.B. 285 would also tweak the process of how medical cannabis registry identification cards are issued in the state and allow for flexible expiration dates of one, two or three years from issuance. Cards issued to terminally ill patients would not expire.
In addition, H.B. 285 would allow patients 65 and older to self-certify their qualifications for a medical cannabis registry identification card without written certification from a health care provider.
The legislation would also allow medical cannabis reciprocity, enabling patients with a medical cannabis card or similar certification from another U.S. state or territory to use it in Delaware to access cannabis, just as they would if they had a Delaware-issued medical card.
H.B. 285 cleared the House Thursday in a 26-10 vote, with one abstention and four absent.
Osienski said expanded medical cannabis access became a priority after Delaware legalized cannabis for adult use last year.
“Following our successful passage of the Delaware Marijuana Control Act last year, establishing a framework for the legalization and regulation of recreational marijuana use in our state, we have actively engaged with and taken feedback from medical marijuana patients,” Osienski said in a public statement. “Drawing from their insights, we identified numerous ways to improve our medical marijuana program. H.B. 285 recognizes the need to remove outdated restrictions and breaks down the barriers that hinder patients who could truly benefit from improved access to medical marijuana.”
With the House’s approval, the legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.
“With the full legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis last year, Rep. Osienski, Sen. Trey Paradee and I agree that it is time to update our medical marijuana law and make it easier for the people who rely on these products to get the therapy that they need,” Sen. Kyra Hoffner, the Senate prime sponsor of H.B. 285, said in a public statement. “These changes will empower patients and their health care providers to make decisions about the treatments that best fit their needs and make those treatments more readily accessible for our neighbors with the greatest need. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to send this legislation to the governor’s desk.”