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How to Open a Dispensary in Delaware


Are you looking for information on how to open a dispensary in Delaware? This page will give you the latest information and news about the cannabis industry in the state. The information inside gives important insights into what will happen in the next few months.

On May 24th, 2022, the Democratic governor of Delaware, John Carney, used his veto power over Bill HB 371. This measure proposed to legalize the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis by people in Delaware who are at least 21 years old. In a vote on June 7th, 2022, the House of Representatives decided not to override the governor’s veto. The final result was tied at 20 with one person abstaining from voting. 

Separately, on May 19th, 2022, a measure (HB 372) that would have legalized, regulated, and taxed the sale of cannabis to adults failed to get the required 25 votes from members of the House. Prohibition will certainly remain in effect in the state of Delaware until 2025, when a new governor will take office, provided that there are no dramatic changes in the make-up of the Delaware House.

On March 28th, 2023, the Delaware state Senate passed two bills that would legalize marijuana for adults and establish a regulated market for its sale. The first bill, House Bill 1, would legalize cannabis for adults, and the second bill, House Bill 2, would set up a framework for regulated recreational marijuana sales. The bills have been approved by a veto-proof majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and they are now headed to Governor John Carney’s desk. If the bills become law, Delaware will become the 22nd state to legalize adult-use cannabis.

On April 23rd, 2023, Delaware legalized recreational marijuana use for adults over 21 through House Bill 1, which was accompanied by state-led regulations and licensing for retail, manufacturing, and cultivation through House Bill 2. The bills were not vetoed by Governor John Carney, making Delaware the 22nd state to legalize recreational marijuana. The move was a significant achievement for advocates and Democrats who had fought for years to ease marijuana restrictions in President Joe Biden’s home state.

The Opportunity Size

An analysis done by the Office of the Auditor of Accounts and released in January 2021 said that if cannabis were legalized in the state of Delaware, it would bring in an extra $43 million per year and create 1,400 new jobs for five years.

The National Cannabis Industry Association noted that Delaware’s medical marijuana market would bring in $12,000,000 in revenue in 2022, while the adult market is expected to bring in $67,000,000 in the same year.

Medical Marijuana

The Medical Marijuana Act (SB 17) was signed into law on May 13th, 2011, making marijuana use for medical purposes legal. Medical patients who have been diagnosed with an illness considered to be debilitating are permitted to possess up to six ounces of marijuana that they have purchased from a dispensary that has been granted a license.

Conditions such as terminal illness, cancer, HIV-positive status, AIDS, anxiety, and decompensated cirrhosis are considered qualifying conditions for adults. You’ll be able to see the whole list on this page.

The medicinal marijuana program in Delaware allows for the restricted and strictly controlled distribution of medical marijuana via non-profit compassion centers. First State Compassion Center received a license to operate as a dispensary from the state and has been doing so since June 26th, 2015.

In December of 2015, the Department of Health decided to start accepting requests for proposals for the registration and operation of a medical marijuana compassion center. This center would be responsible for producing, processing, and selling medical marijuana in Kent and Sussex County.

The Office of Medical Marijuana released an open proposal request on September 2nd, 2020, to license four more state-compassion centers. The submission deadline for applications was October 28th, 2020.

At the moment, there are a total of seven compassion centers operating throughout the state.

Application Fee

In Delaware, the cost of opening a dispensary includes a $5,000 non-refundable application fee paid to the Division of Public Health, Medical Marijuana Program at the time of application. Successful applicants must pay $40,000 for certification and a bi-annual license fee. 

The Department will only accept new applicants for a Compassion Center License when applications are open. At this time, applications are no longer being accepted. When applications are once again accepted, we will provide an update to this section.

Recreational Use Legalization

On April 23rd, 2023, Delaware joined the list of states that have legalized recreational marijuana. Delaware legalized recreational marijuana through House Bill 1 and House Bill 2

Here’s what House Bill 1 will do:

  • Allows individuals aged 21 and above to legally possess, use, share, and purchase up to one ounce of cannabis
  • Forbids public consumption and cultivation
  • Prevents misuse of the “gifting” provision by clarifying that trading cannabis for non-marijuana items is not allowed. 

Here’s what House Bill 2 will do:

  • Establishes a regulated cannabis market for adults in the state, outlining a basic framework for this purpose. 
  • The newly established Office of Marijuana Control Commissioner, under the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement (DATE), would be responsible for regulating the market. 
  • During the initial 16 months of implementation, up to 30 cannabis retail licenses could be granted, with a focus on candidates who can demonstrate a commitment to providing a living wage, health insurance, sick and paid leave, and diversity in hiring. 
  • In addition to conventional retail, cultivator, manufacturer, and laboratory licenses, the bill also provides for social equity and microbusiness licenses, which are earmarked for applicants with majority ownership by Delaware residents.

Delaware Cannabis License Timeline

To offer you a roadmap for obtaining licenses, here is a timeline for the acceptance and issuance of different types of cannabis licenses in the state as outlined by House Bill 2. Take note that you should stay updated on any potential changes to the timeline that may arise due to evolving circumstances in the cannabis sector in Delaware.

May 2024: Acceptance of applications for all licenses (open, social equity, and microbusiness).

June 2024: Issuance of licenses begins.

July 2024: Issuance of cultivation facility licenses based on canopy area.

  • Indoor facility ≤ 2500 sq. ft. or outdoor facility ≤ 1 acre: 20 microbusiness licenses, 10 social equity licenses.
  • Indoor facility > 2500 sq. ft. or outdoor facility > 1 acre: 20 open licenses, 10 social equity licenses.

August 2024: Issuance of product manufacturing facility licenses.

  • 10 open licenses, 10 social equity licenses, 10 microbusiness licenses.

November 2024: Issuance of retail store and testing facility licenses.

  • Retail store licenses: 15 open licenses, 15 social equity licenses.
  • Testing facility licenses: 3 open licenses, 2 social equity licenses.

In April 2025, the Commissioner can accept applications for any type of license and issue licenses exceeding the specified numbers. This is based on two reasons: if additional stores or facilities are deemed necessary or if the number of licenses for a specific type is below the permitted quantity mentioned in this section.

Previous Legalization Attempts

There have been multiple attempts in Delaware to make recreational marijuana legal. State Rep. Ed Osienski, the main sponsor of complementary bills HB 371 and HB 372, took up the latest effort to legalize recreational marijuana in Delaware. In May 2022, the Delaware General Assembly officially passed HB 371, a bill to legalize cannabis or marijuana. However, on May 24th, 2022, John Carney, the Governor of Delaware, stopped the bill with a veto.

This is what House Bill 371 would have done if it had been a law:

  • Adults over 21 would be allowed to possess up to one ounce of cannabis from whichever source they choose.
  • Abolish all criminal penalties for possessing up to 1 ounce of marijuana, with possession beyond that amount and public use remaining as misdemeanors.
  • Permit adults to give or receive cannabis to the extent permitted by law and without remuneration.

Complementary bill HB 372, or the Delaware Marijuana Control Act, was defeated by the House on May 19th, 2022. 

This is what House Bill 372 would have done if it had been a law:

  • Make it legal for adults over 21 to possess, consume, buy, or transport up to one ounce of marijuana, of which five grams might be a concentrated product.
  • Provides an overview of a regulatory framework for the legalization of marijuana and the selling of the drug in retail settings, including open licenses, social equity licenses, and microbusiness licenses.
  • After the measure has been in effect for 19 months, the regulatory bodies will need to provide their approval for 30 retail licenses, of which half will be given to social equity applicants.

We will keep you updated on any pertinent information about opening a dispensary in Delaware as Delaware continues to build its cannabis program and as developments take place that will affect when and how marijuana legalization occurs. By joining our Delaware Cannabis Mailing List (below), you can stay up to date on any relevant and difficult-to-find Delaware Legalization news and information. This comprises—without being limited to—the following:

  • What are the most recent developments regarding the legalization of cannabis in Delaware?
  • When will applications for new cannabis licenses be available?
  • What special programs will be offered?
  • And more

Complete the information below to get access!




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