Here are some of the top stories we’re following for Tuesday, March 31, 2020.
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States across the country have deemed marijuana dispensaries essential during the coronavirus pandemic, leading to a boom in sales for recreational use and mental health treatment.
But in Delaware, where recreational use is illegal and medical marijuana can’t be used for anxiety, lawful sales and prescription applications have so far remained the same, according to the state Office of Medical Marijuana.
“Because it’s not a current condition that we certify for, I don’t see it changing very much,” said Paul Hyland, the office’s director.
Other states have a different story.
One Denver dispensary owner told USA Today in March that she saw a spike of 100 customers per day during the pandemic, and compared the demand to that for toilet paper. She said her customers rely on her services to treat anxiety, depression and pain.
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In some cases, more demand means more hiring. Dispensaries in states such as California are hiring more workers amid the pandemic, some of whom had lost jobs because of the virus, according to Politico.
Meanwhile, in Delaware, it’s business as usual except that the state’s six dispensaries are undergoing more thorough cleaning and are now allowing online ordering and curbside pickup during the pandemic, Hyland said.
People in the First State can use medical marijuana to treat more than a dozen medical conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer, persistent muscle spasms and seizures.
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Delaware lawmakers were on their way this year to allowing residents to start treating anxiety with medical marijuana. Specifically, patients could use products that have high levels of CBD, a compound derived from hemp that research indicates has relaxing effects.
The measure, Senate Bill 170 by Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and is awaiting passage in the House.
“It does seem like it would benefit some people in Delaware, particularly given the current circumstances,” Townsend said. “Obviously, now we’re seeing … that this would be an option that could help people.”
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But it’s unclear if and when that bill, or any bill, will get a floor vote. As of mid-March, the General Assembly has postponed its lawmaking session indefinitely to prevent the spread of the virus in Legislative Hall.
Townsend said he hopes lawmakers can find a way to pass the bill “even in the current environment, so that people’s lives can be improved more quickly.”
During this pandemic, aiding people’s mental health is the primary goal of the bill, Townsend said. Potential jobs and revenue are a “close second,” and businesses would still need to follow social distancing guidelines during the pandemic, he said.
Due to the state of emergency that Gov. John Carney declared more than two weeks ago, businesses deemed nonessential have been told to halt services to prevent the spread of the virus, leading more than 10,700 residents to file for unemployment in a week.
Hyland said he doesn’t expect Delaware dispensaries to have any shortages due to the pandemic or resulting business closures.
Townsend said his bill would create a “better medical marijuana framework.”
“There are people who use marijuana outside the formal legal medical framework to try to achieve the same relief from anxiety,” Townsend added. “Some people might be doing that now without the law on the books.”
Sarah Gamard covers politics and government for Delaware Online/The News Journal. You can reach her at (302) 324-2281 or email@example.com. You can follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.
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