The proposed legislation would eliminate a requirement of receiving a medical marijuana registry card.

New bill would expand access to medical marijuana cards

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Government

The proposed legislation would eliminate a requirement of receiving a medical marijuana registry card.

The proposed legislation would eliminate a requirement of receiving a medical marijuana registry card.

Delaware Democrats filed new legislation Thursday that would enhance patient access to medical marijuana and revamp the framework of the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act. 

House Bill 285, sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, would remove the requirement that a patient must have a debilitating medical condition to qualify for a registry identification card. 

Instead, health-care providers would determine whether a patient has a diagnosed medical condition that would benefit therapeutically or palliatively from the use of medical marijuana. 

In a statement, Osienski said this bill is a result of conversations and feedback from medical marijuana patients. 

“Drawing from their insights, we identified numerous ways to improve our medical marijuana program,” he said. 

The bill would modify the issuance process of medical marijuana registry identification cards, which facilitate the acquisition, delivery, possession, or transfer of medical marijuana. 

These cards are authorized documents granted to eligible adult patients, registered designated caregivers assisting adult patients, or registered designated caregivers for pediatric patients. 

Sen. Eric Buckson, R-Dover, said the bill doesn’t go far enough.

“Our federal government has yet to recognize the medicinal value of marijuana when prescribed by a doctor to deal with things like post-traumatic stress disorder and depression along with pain management evidence,” he said, “by the fact that medical card holders are not covered by their insurance providers and pay cash for their prescription because the federal government has scheduled medicinal marijuana at a level equal to crystal meth, fentanyl and heroin. It makes no sense.”

If the bill passes, patients 65 and older could self-certify their qualification for a registry identification card without a written certification from a health-care provider.

The bill would also allow for flexible expiration dates on registry identification cards, enabling 1-, 2- or 3-year expiration dates.

“The legislation passed last year to commercialize marijuana use has undermined the legitimacy or necessity to have a medical card from marijuana,” Buckson said, “primarily because now folks can self-medicate without needing to talk to a medical provider and there is no incentive to go to a medical provider because a prescription does not gain access to insurance coverage, discounted costs, or electronic transactions, primarily because of the way the federal government has scheduled the classification of marijuana as a medicine.”

Buckson said it’s hypocritical for a doctor to be able to prescribe heavy narcotics to a patient dealing with pain or PTSD and having those drugs covered by insurance, but a plant-based drug with no evidence of long-term harmful effects is looked at at the same level as heroin crystal meth or other drugs deemed according to them to have no medicinal value.

In cases where a qualifying patient has a terminal illness, the legislation allows for the issuance of a registry identification card with an indefinite expiration date. 

“The only reason we continue to struggle despite the bipartisan support for medical marijuana and its usage is the heavy influence that the pharmaceutical industry has over Delaware’s congressional delegation,” Buckson said.

House Republicans declined to comment on the proposed bill.

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