Downstate medical marijuana patients now have a dispensary closer to home.
About 25 people lined up at First State Compassion Center’s new shop just off Route 9 east of Lewes for the grand opening Friday.
Many of them, like 28-year-old Joshua Money from Laurel, say previously they’d make the two-hour drive to the Wilmington dispensary – also run by First State – with nothing to show for it.
The dispensary would be out of their strains by the time they got there. Money says he needs a specific type to help calm his PTSD symptoms.
“My eyes are hyper, my mind’s hyper, I’m always looking around waiting for something, but when I smoke an indica it just smooths it right out,” he said.
Koreen Pacher from Georgetown stood nearby in a Delaware NORML shirt and colorful leggings adorned with pot leaves.
She’s also thankful she won’t have to drive so far to help treat her fibromyalgia.
“It doesn’t cure it – there is no cure for it – but the edge it takes off so I can actually move and I can live my life. Otherwise, I’m bound to my recliner all the time,” Pacher said.
The line snakes around the side of the strip mall with little cover from the sun and no benches for the many people with mobility issues – a problem some say they encounter in Wilmington, too.
First State Compassion Center opened their Germay Drive location in the summer of 2015 and quickly had trouble keeping up with demand from patients across the state.
Some, like Mark Walden from Slaughter Beach question why the state Division of Public Health awarded First State the second of three licenses to operate dispensaries last year.
“I just seem to feel that they’re way behind the eight ball, that there lots of people who actually know how to do this. Why didn’t they ask somebody? Why aren’t they able to keep up? And as it’s a state-sponsored monopoly, they don’t really have a lot of motivation to keep up,” Walden said.
In a statement, First State Compassion Center president Mark Lally says his company has the proper growing capacity, but that it takes time to replenish popular strains.
"The lines are initiated by patients arriving sometimes three hours before the Center opens for fear that we may run out of the strain of product they want and then compounding the problem by buying large quantities of these popular strains once inside. We’ve educated patients about this but it hasn't made a difference," Lally said.
As for benches, he says he hasn't considered it since First State is "like any other office or doctor's office that doesn't provide seating outside."
Computer problems delayed the line for about an hour, though First State staff passed around doughnuts and bottled water.
Once they fixed those problems, Money came out with a full bag of his favorite strains.
“They literally have everything they had to offer up on the menu. Even though they didn’t have no quarters or half ounces or nothing bagged up, they had eighths bagged up, but they did have every strain today, which was great,” he said.
Money noted he’d like to see pot sold here in those bigger quantities, but he’s thankful his travel time is cut by more than half.
Delaware’s third dispensary, owned by Columbia Care, is expected to open late this year in Milford.
State lawmakers are also considering fully legalizing the drug and selling it for recreational use.
A House committee signed off on the proposal earlier this month, but it’s still waiting for a full vote on the floor.
The same day the Delaware bill passed out of committee, lawmakers in Vermont became the first state legislature to greenlight a bill legalizing recreational marijuana.
Gov. Phil Scott (R) said this week he’d veto the bill, but that he’s not opposed to the issue. Scott says he wants to give law enforcement a benchmark to know when someone is too high to drive.