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 15, 2023, Delaware’s Senate Committee on Health and Human Services gave approval to a pair of bills that would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults 21 and older. The measures, HB 1 and HB 2, which were previously passed by the state’s House of Representatives on March 7th, would legalize possession of marijuana and establish fundamental regulations for an adult-use market for the drug respectively. 

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

Although possession of small quantities of cannabis has been decriminalized, its use for recreational purposes is still prohibited in Delaware.

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.

2023 Legalization Efforts

As mentioned above, there are 2023 efforts that are aimed at making the adult use of cannabis legal and regulated in the state.

The first proposed legislation, referred to as HB 1 legalization bill, would permit individuals aged 21 and above to legally possess, use, share, and purchase up to one ounce of cannabis, with the exception of public consumption and cultivation. The bill includes a clause to prevent misuse of the “gifting” provision by clarifying that trading cannabis for non-marijuana items is not allowed. Furthermore, when transporting cannabis in a vehicle, it must be in a sealed container or not readily accessible to those inside the vehicle.

The second proposed legislation, HB 2 regulatory bill, aims to establish 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.

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

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