Marijuana farmers... do they exist in Delaware? Not how you might think.

Three companies in Delaware grow all medical marijuana in the state.

First State Compassion Center, Compassionate Care Research Institute and Columbia Care, are the only ones permitted to grow, sell and distribute medical marijuana products, according to Jen Brestel, public information officer for the Division of Public Health within the Department of Health and Social Services.

The DPH Office of Medical Marijuana regulates their operation but does not “approve” their growing processes, Brestel said. Unlike other cannabis crops like hemp, which has less than 0.3% THC, an intoxicating chemical that causes the “high” of marijuana, medical marijuana is not regulated by the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

While each growing facility may use slightly different processes, the medical marijuana products are grown indoors under “special grow lighting systems” with climate controls, said Paul Hyland, director of the OMM.

Pesticides are prohibited, Hyland said. “To minimize pest infestation, access to grow areas is restricted and the employees take extra precautions to control cross contamination,” he said.

For quality control, the state contracts with High Tide Lab, which has been testing Delaware’s medical marijuana for pesticides and contaminants since January 2017.

First State Compassion was established first in June 2015. Located in Wilmington, the facility, more than an acre in size, includes 19 marijuana cultivation rooms, an extraction lab and a dispensary.

In May 2017, they expanded to Lewes.

“We’re very proud to have pioneered the medical marijuana industry in Delaware,” said Mark S. Lally, president and CEO of First State Compassion. “The communities we serve have accepted us as a local business, and the patients we serve rely on us: every month, we provide state-authorized medication to 8,500 patients at our Wilmington and Lewes locations,” he said.

Every medical marijuana product that a dispensary, also known as a compassion center, sells must have been grown in that facility or another compassion center contracted by the state, a requirement outlined in the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act.

Other compassion centers include Fresh Cannabis in Newark, part of the larger company Compassionate Care Research Institute, and Columbia Care in Smyrna.

Kim Petters, executive director of Delcanna, an organization that advocates for marijuana legalization, said that the state should grant licenses to more compassion centers to better match patient needs.

“We need more dispensaries,” she said, and patients often feel frustrated because not every dispensary offers the same product.

“We’ve been screaming from the rooftops that we still can’t get what we need when we walk into the dispensaries,” she said. “Medical marijuana patients are feeling left behind.”

Brestel said the Division of Public Health understands that medical marijuana cardholders are looking for greater access to dispensaries.

“[The DPH] is committed to increasing statewide access, with data identifying areas where higher concentrations of certified cardholders live being a significant consideration in determining additional locations,” Brestel said.