Skip to main content

Delaware Suspends Medical Marijuana Program

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #721)

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) Friday suspended the regulation-writing and licensing process for the state's medical marijuana dispensaries, essentially killing medical marijuana in a state whose law does not allow patients or caregivers to grow their own.

Markell acted after the US Attorney for Delaware, Charles M. Oberly III, responded threateningly to a December request for clarification about his attitude toward the state's law from Markell's legal counsel, Michael Barlow. In line with the Justice Department's most recent iteration of its stance toward medical marijuana, last June's memo from Deputy Attorney General James Cole, Oberly warned that state employees who regulated the medical marijuana industry might not be safe from federal prosecution.

"Growing, distributing and possessing marijuana, in any capacity, other than as part of a federally authorized research program, is a violation of federal law regardless of state laws permitting such activities," Oberly wrote in a letter delivered last Thursday to Barlow. "Moreover, those who engage in financial transactions involving the proceeds of such activities may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes… "State employees who conduct activities mandated by the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act are not immune from liability under" the Controlled Substances Act, Oberly added.

Markell's office told the Wilmington News Journal Friday that Oberly's stance prevented the Department of Health and Social Services from moving forward on licensing dispensaries, which, under Delaware's law, would be limited to three nonprofit operations.

"To do otherwise would put our state employees in legal jeopardy, and I will not do that," Markell said.

"If you look at the Cole memo, it focuses on this large-scale, industrial distribution model, and what we have in Delaware is a distribution model that centralizes that into one place," Barlow told the News Journal. "It seems to be something the Cole memo is looking to specifically. The governor's concern is that we're not doing things to put state employees potentially in the way of the federal government's new enforcement."

Ironically, some of the impetus for the passage of Delaware's medical marijuana law was the Obama administration's earlier adoption of a hands-off position on medical marijuana, the October 2009 memo from Cole's predecessor, David Ogden. That memo said federal prosecution of medical marijuana patients and providers was "unlikely to be an efficient use of federal resources."

Delaware passed its medical marijuana law last May. A month later, the Cole memo came out, and the new wave of federal medical marijuana threats, raids, and prosecutions began.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


PCDEC (not verified)

The voters will be forced to pass a ballot initiative that will allow for patients to grow their own and/or distribute via privately owned dispensaries. This is actually a good thing in my eyes. They are so stupid. Do they not realize that they missed the boat full of tax money on this issue? They could have taxed and regulated this a long time ago. Letting the citizens decide for themselves via ballot initiatives will assure they make very little tax money on cannabis because we have our best interests in mind unlike the government.

Mon, 02/13/2012 - 10:42pm Permalink
Justin Auldphart (not verified)

These folks down in Delaware must live in a vacuum and have taken the coward's way out. Even the Gorgan Gov. Brewer was told to fish or cut bait when she tried to use the same tactic and rationalization.

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 9:46am Permalink
Tony Aroma (not verified)

Maybe someone in Delaware should take the time to actually read the Controlled Substances Act:

Part E - Administrative and Enforcement Provisions

Sec. 885. Burden of proof; liabilities

(a) Exemptions and exceptions; presumption in simple possession
(d) Immunity of Federal, State, local and other officials
Except as provided in sections 2234 and 2235 of title 18, no
civil or criminal liability shall be imposed by virtue of this
subchapter upon any duly authorized Federal officer lawfully
engaged in the enforcement of this subchapter, or upon any duly
authorized officer of any State, territory, political subdivision
thereof, the District of Columbia, or any possession of the United
States, who shall be lawfully engaged in the enforcement of any law
or municipal ordinance relating to controlled substances.

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 12:02pm Permalink
Anonymous234556 (not verified)

Every single time a state tries a medical marijuana system where the state government gets involved in the regulation, distribution, growing, and licensing of marijuana... the federal government threatens the state officials with criminal prosecution.

So this tells me that the way the laws should be written is to make it more of a "private" industry like California where there's no burden on state officials to license or regulate it. The burden will be on the tons of private dispensary owners and growers instead of a few state officials.

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 10:27pm Permalink
DelVoter (not verified)

if the Gov  wont get it done then come VOTE time i say we elect one who has a Set   a brass set. Hey Gov Jack   tskr care of all your voters  or find a new job

Tue, 04/17/2012 - 11:49pm Permalink
Anonymous12445 (not verified)

If the government refuses to dismantle this failed war against marijuana, then the voters must!  It is just going to take a couple states to legalize small amounts of marijuana. Prohibitions on nature are never destined to succeed.

Wed, 06/27/2012 - 2:02pm Permalink
Anonymous12445 (not verified)

If the government refuses to dismantle this failed war against marijuana, then the voters must!  It is just going to take a couple states to legalize small amounts of marijuana. Prohibitions on nature are never destined to succeed.

Wed, 06/27/2012 - 2:02pm Permalink
Miriam (not verified)

I am one of the people who could greatly benefit from this law. I was saddened to read that the whole thing is on hold for now. It might take years or decades to sort this all out. If the Governors mother was suffering like I do each and every minute of everyday he might feel differently. I see no compassion here, none what so ever. I will not be voting for this governor and I will actively campaign to see he is NOT re-elected. I like mr oberly but he must go too. Do I need to move to another state? Leave my family and doctors? Start over at my age? I don't think we will ever see it here in Delaware It's just a pipe dream! No pun intended. Guess I'm moving out of state after 53 years here.
Mon, 10/15/2012 - 3:22am Permalink

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.