(Denver Post file)

Delaware bill to expand medical marijuana conditions stalls in Senate

Updated May 17, 2017, 7:30 a.m. with result of vote

DOVER, Del. — A bill expanding the permissible uses for medical marijuana in Delaware stalled in the state Senate on Tuesday after lawmakers noted that a promised amendment to address concerns of the medical industry never materialized.

The bill failed to win Senate passage after 10 lawmakers in the 21-member chamber abstained from voting.

Chief sponsor Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington, said afterward that she planned to reintroduce the legislation at a later date.

The bill adds debilitating anxiety to the list of conditions and illnesses for which medical marijuana can be prescribed. The anxiety definition includes generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and social anxiety.

The proposal also removes a requirement that a psychiatrist sign an application for someone seeking to use medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Instead, any physician would be allowed to verify the application.

Supporters of the measure say it could provide significant help to many Delawareans, especially veterans suffering from PTSD.

“We will open the path to treatment and relief to many of our citizens, including a whole lot of veterans,” said Sen. Harris McDowell III, D-Wilmington.

Opponents of the bill include the Medical Society of Delaware, the Delaware Psychiatric Association, and the Delaware Healthcare Association, which represents hospitals.

Sen. Bryan Townsend, a Newark Democrat and a chief co-sponsor of the measure, said the medical society’s opposition involved concerns about the provision in the bill allowing marijuana treatment for anxiety.

But other lawmakers expressed concern about eliminating the requirement for a psychiatrist’s confirmation that a person suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder may benefit from the use of medical marijuana.

“I’m not sure a regular physician can diagnose these various disorders,” said Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson, R-Milford.

Henry noted that her office had twice asked the Department of Health and Social Services to work on amendment to the bill, but she indicated that there had been no cooperation.

“I think the veterans are disappointed,” Henry said.

DHSS spokeswoman Jill Fredel issued a statement late Tuesday saying the Division of Public Health had discussed an amendment with Henry and offered broadly to work on one in an April committee hearing.

“We were in touch with Senator Henry’s office today and are committed to working with her on next steps,” Fredel wrote.