First State wins Sussex medical marijuana contract

New facility could be open in January
October 25, 2016

First State Compassion Center, the state’s first, licensed medical-marijuana distributor, won the bid on the contract to dispense marijuana in Sussex County.

The announcement was made by Joe Handlon, a justice department attorney representing the state during court proceedings Oct. 21 in Georgetown.

Milton resident Todd Boone filed a lawsuit against the state for moving too slowly to implement its medical marijuana program. Medical marijuana was legalized in Delaware in 2011. According to the legislation creating the program, if conditions warranted, there should be two distributors in each county by now.

Handlon first asked for the case to be dismissed, and then updated Superior Court Judge E. Scott Bradley on the status of the medical marijuana program.

Emily Knearl, Delaware Division of Public Health spokeswoman, confirmed Oct. 21 a contract was signed. She said the division would be making a formal announcement Oct. 24, but it was not released before the Cape Gazette deadline.

Mark Lally, First State Compassion Center president, would not confirm or deny the contract has been signed.

“A future press release will be forthcoming,” he said in an email Oct. 21.

Pamela Johnston, First State Compassion Center spokeswoman, said Oct. 24 that First State would make no announcement in advance of the state’s announcement.

There’s a protocol to follow, and First State’s going to follow it, she said.

This is the second winning bid for First State Compassion Center to dispense medical marijuana in Delaware. The company’s Wilmington-based facility opened its doors in June 2015.

It’s also the second contract awarded by the state in a month. The Delaware Division of Public Health announced Sept. 23 that New York-based Columbia Care had been selected to open Kent County's first medical marijuana dispensary. This was the second license issued by the state to cultivate and dispense medical marijuana under the 2011 law.

In a prepared statement at the time, Columbia Care said the compassion center is expected to open in the second half of 2017.

Handlon said First State Compassion Center was expected to open its Sussex County location by January 2017. He said the relatively quick turnaround time is possible because the vendor is already operating in Delaware.

At this point, the location of the Sussex County marijuana dispensary is unknown. Georgetown is the only Sussex municipality that has changed its code to allow dispensaries.

In May, Georgetown Town Council unanimously approved an ordinance allowing for a compassion center. According to the ordinance, the hours of operation would be limited to 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday; and closed on Sunday.

Unfortunately for Boone, Bradley dismissed the case on the grounds that the state did meet a stipulation of the legislation requiring the adoption of regulations by 2012.

Following the hearing, Boone said he wasn’t surprised by the judge’s decision. He also said he wasn’t happy to hear First State had won the bid because, he said, he was concerned this would lead to a lack of competition in the marketplace.

Third party contractor to test medicine

In addition to awarding the contract for the third dispensary, the state is in contract negotiations for a third-party vendor who would run the state’s yet-to-be created medical marijuana testing and compliance center.

With much less fanfare than the request for proposals for the Kent and Sussex dispensaries, the state released the request for this service in June, with a Sept. 15 response deadline. Two companies submitted a bid.

Andrea Wojcik, Division of Public Health spokeswoman, said the primary role of medical marijuana testing is to ensure both public safety and quality of the products tested.

“Quantification of cannabinoid profiles and potency is needed to determine appropriate dosing for individual use,” said Wojcik in an email.

According to the proposed schedule outlined in the request, the state anticipates testing to begin January 2017. That start date is dependent upon the successful completion of contract negotiations with the selected applicant, said Wojcik.

“It is anticipated that one vendor will be selected, and thus the successful applicant will serve all three counties,” she said.

Unlike the dispensaries, multiple compliance centers are not required, but Wojcik said they can operate from multiple locations if they choose.

“However, each location must meet the established security requirements including physical security elements, alarms system, video recording and remote monitoring of video,” she wrote.


Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter