Medical marijuana patients protest against dispensaries

Mad about high prices, medicine availability and companies coming out against legalization
May 1, 2021

Story Location:
Columbia Care
36725 Bayside Outlet Drive
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

Medical marijuana patients from across Sussex County protested in front of Columbia Care’s Rehoboth Beach dispensary April 24. The group said they are fed up with unnecessarily high prices, not enough medicine and the state’s medical marijuana providers coming out against legislation to legalize marijuana in Delaware.

Frankford’s Lillyanne Ternahan is the patient who organized the protest.

“We’re here to spread awareness and get the word out,” said Ternahan, taking a break from yelling organized chants into a lime-green megaphone adorned with a marijuana leaf decal. “When these guys opened, I was excited about the possible options, but they’re always understocked and the prices are too high. The price gouging is horrendous.”

Ternahan said patients are legally allowed to purchase three ounces at a time; however, online menus for the three operational providers show that only small quantities of cannabis are available for purchase at prices that are considerably higher than the price of medical cannabis in legal states like Colorado.

These protesters aren’t the first medical marijuana advocates to call for a boycott of the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries.

In a press release April 7, Laura Sharer, Delaware NORML executive director and a registered patient, said, “It’s despicable that these companies, which already profit from patients and our advocacy, would fight against our all-volunteer efforts to fully legalize cannabis.” NORML is the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Zoë Patchell, Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network executive director, said the market belongs to the longtime consumers, patients and activists who create the demand, drive reform efforts and pay the prices at dispensaries. 

“Cannabis is more than a market – cannabis is a community. These companies cannot reasonably fathom that we are going to purchase cannabis from any entity that has proven to put profits over patients,” said Patchell. “And now they seem willing to put consumers' lives and freedom at risk just to hold out for an unfair advantage in the industry.”

In an email April 26, Ngiste Abebe, Columbia Care vice president of public policy, said Columbia Care has worked closely with stakeholders to advance legalization throughout the country. Delawareans have waited too long for legalization, and she shares patients’ concerns about improving access to Delaware’s medical cannabis program, she said.

Abebe said adult-use legalization must ensure medical patients will be able to continue to rely on the life-changing medicines the states’s six medical cannabis operators provide.

“Medical inclusion into adult use directly affects affordability,” said Abede. “That’s why every state that legalized this year recognized the importance of including the medical program in any adult-use framework. Beyond patient access, thoughtful medical inclusion can also support social equity and public health priorities.”

House Bill 150 was introduced March 18 and limits the number of total cannabis licenses that will be issued during the initial implementation process to 125 – 60 cultivators, 30 manufacturing facilities, 30 retailers, and five laboratories. Of those licenses, 77 will be issued under the social equity or micro-license categories. Two years after enactment of HB150, the licensing caps would be removed.

Since being introduced, the bill was reported out of the House Health & Human Development Committee March 24 and then assigned to the House Appropriations Committee March 25. This committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, April 28, but according to the agenda found on the General Assembly website, the bill will not be up for discussion.

Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, introduced an amendment to the bill April 22 that requires marijuana testing facilities to meet, and maintain, the requirements set by the international standard ISO/IEC 17025, which is used by laboratories around the world. The amendment is awaiting consideration. King is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Unlike other states with voter initiative balloting, Delaware’s Constitution requires the bill to attain a three-fifths supermajority of votes to pass through the General Assembly.

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