Medical marijuana in Delaware might have just been put on indefinite hold by Governor Jack Markell. Legal opinions have been swirling around the state about whether growers, distributors and state employees could be prosecuted under federal law. Because of this, Markell suspended the licensing process for new dispensaries, as well as the regulation-writing process, which essentially kills medical marijuana for the state.
Delaware Online reports that Markell also criticized the federal government for their mixed signals. Specifically, Markell is confused about a letter he received from U.S. Attorney for Delaware Charles M. Oberly III, saying that "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 also threatened those engaging in financial transactions in the marijuana industry, saying that they "may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes."
Because of this, the Department of Health and Social Services is no longer able to license new clinics, lest its staff be sought out for federal prosecution. They are "not immune" to such prosecution, said Oberly. Friday, Governor Markell put a halt to the program, saying that he is not willing to put his state employees in legal jeopardy.
Similar song-and-dance has been happening around the country - where just recently, U.S. Attorney for Northern California Melinda Haag had threatened Mendocino County and San Francisco dispensaries in the same fashion. As well, some Colorado dispensaries awoke to letters from their U.S. Attorney, John Walsh, suggesting that their proximity to schools made them subject to closure or forfeiture. These letters have placed a wedge between the states whose voters have approved medical marijuana and the federal government, who still considers marijuana to have no medical value.
Michael A. Barlow, Governor Markell's legal counsel, says that this decision forces patients to either illegally buy or grow their own marijuana, or go without medication. "That appears to be the unfortunate consequence of a federal policy that appears to offer mercy to cancer patients and others with a serious medical need for marijuana," said Barlow in response to Oberly's letter, "but actually threatens criminal and civil sanctions for those who might help them safely obtain that relief."