Two measures to legalize and establish a recreational marijuana sector in Delaware were introduced by House members on Friday, setting up a possible conflict within the Democratic Party this legislative term. Democrats have been attempting to legalize recreational marijuana in Delaware for ten years, but they have consistently been thwarted by lawmakers from their own party, most notably Governor John Carney.
A legalization bill that had cleared both chambers was vetoed by Carney last year after it had culminated efforts. Carney is adamantly against legalization. The veto, which in and of itself was unusual in Delaware, was not overturned. Following the governor’s rejection, a number of Democrats who had earlier supported the legislation changed their minds.
Pete Schwartzkopf, the speaker of the House, has also previously opposed legalizing bills. Meanwhile, recreational marijuana use has been made legal in New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. Representative Ed Osienski, D-Newark/Brookside, who is once again supporting this measure, stated, “We have some new members; we have some new enthusiasm.” And I believe that many lawmakers are aware of the fact that I will just not let this slide.
What’s The Strategy This Year?
It’s unlikely that Carney, a moderate Democrat serving a second term in office, will change his stance, even if it differs from where his party stands generally. According to a John Carney spokesman, the governor’s opinions on marijuana have not changed. One of the only states with a Democratic governorship that has not legalized marijuana in Delaware.
Supporters do have a reason for optimism, though, thanks to the inclusion of a number of progressives in the Delaware House of Representatives. Last year, the proposal underwent multiple revisions before being successfully split into two different bills: one to allow modest amounts of recreational marijuana for individual use and the other to establish and regulate the sector.
The plan is unchanged for this year. Osienski claimed that in the six months since the conclusion of the previous session, he had spoken with lawmakers who have been undecided. He thinks that the establishment of the sector in New Jersey and the hundreds of millions of cash it generated also helped allay fears. On how much money Delaware might make if this legislation is passed, there are no official projections.
According to the Newark Democrat, he met with the governor’s staff to “have an open discourse,” which did not take place during the previous session. Osienski thinks that the House speaker will support the regulation bill if the legalization bill passes first, which would be a crucial vote, based on his most recent chat with Pete Schwartzkopf.
My aim is that by maintaining an open line of communication with the governor’s office, a veto will be less likely, he said. “A veto override has more support from my members, but I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that,” the member said.
What Is Included in The Legislation?
For persons who are 21 or older and in possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, House Bill 1 would eliminate all penalties. A simple majority, or 21 votes, would be required to pass this legislation. Marijuana use is currently legal in Delaware. The second bill, HB 2, would establish a framework to control the production, distribution, and possession of marijuana.
According to lawmakers, marijuana would be subject to the same regulations and taxes as alcohol. Because it pertains to income and taxation, this act requires a three-fifths majority. Residents of Delaware would purchase marijuana from a legal retail marijuana business. Up to 30 retail licenses could be distributed under the proposed legislation within 16 months of its passage.
The process will be cutthroat, and potential shops will be rewarded for offering competitive pay and benefits as well as hiring a diverse team. According to a news release, the proposal would also give access to this new market to those who have been “disproportionately harmed by the prohibition of marijuana.”
The bill also establishes a 15% fee for marijuana control enforcement. Additionally, 7% of the proceeds from the marijuana tax will go to the Justice Reinvestment Fund, a priority issue for the Democratic Black Caucus. The Department of Justice would be in charge of this funding, which would be used to fund grants and services that, among other things, would reduce the number of people incarcerated in the state and promote restorative justice.
According to Zoe Patchell, executive director of the Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network, supporters are in favor of the plan to split the legislation into two pieces. She argued that eliminating the current cannabis penalties should continue to be a top focus.
The criminal justice component, in her opinion, “is either understated or neglected.” This will definitely occur in Delaware, she added. But how many more individuals must suffer as a result of this bad policy before the legislature complies with the wishes of the 70% of Delawareans who support it?