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Delaware Senate blocks medical marijuana expansion

Delaware Public Media

Concerns from a special interest group and a state agency torpedoed a bill that would expand access to Delaware’s medical marijuana program.

The measure would have allowed sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder to forego the current requirement to get a psychiatrist’s recommendation for a medical marijuana card.

It’s chief sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington East), says the Department of Health and Social Services asked whether it could include a recommendation from a social worker instead, but that discussion never happened.

“We offered to have two meetings with them and they did not show up so we continued with the bill as it’s presented today,” Henry said.

In a statement, DHSS officials didn’t explain why they dodged the meetings, but note they will work on the proposal’s next steps.

The bill failed to get enough support to pass, with 10 state senators abstaining from voting.

Air Force veteran Kim Petters, who lives in Magnolia, says pot should be more widely available for those with PTSD. She says drugs to treat the disorder are dangerous and prevented her from thriving.

“I no longer take an anti-anxiety pill, an anti-depressant pill. I am no longer taking a pill just to wake up from the pill that made me go to sleep that [left me feeling] groggy,” said Petters. “I went from simply existing in life to now living.”

Controversially, the proposal also would have added general anxiety, social anxiety, panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder to the list of qualified conditions allowed under the program.

The influential Medical Society of Delaware opposed that provision, noting research on whether pot helps with anxiety disorders is inconclusive and could harm patients instead.

State lawmakers are also considering fully legalizing marijuana for those over 21-years-old. Such an expansion is estimated to net $22 million in its first full year, though legislators are avoiding selling it as a silver bullet budget option.

The bill faces heavy opposition from medical professionals, AAA Mid-Atlantic, the Delaware Chamber of Commerce and others. The proposal is awaiting a vote on the House floor.

Henry says she’ll reintroduce her failed bill soon.

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