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Delaware Lawmakers Pass Cannabis Legalization Bill

A.J. Herrington

By A.J. Herrington

May 19, 2022

The Delaware state Senate approved a bill to

possession of small amounts of cannabis last Thursday, sending the measure to the desk of Democratic Gov. John Carney for his consideration. The Delaware Senate approved the measure with a vote of 13-7, one week after it gained the approval of the House of Representatives on May 5.

Under the bill, possession of less than one ounce of cannabis by adults 21 and older will no longer be illegal. Transfers of less than one ounce of cannabis between adults is also allowed under the measure. Delaware decriminalized low-level possession in 2015, but civil penalties of up to $100 could still be assessed for possessing up to one ounce of cannabis.

Possession by those under 21 and possessing more than one ounce of cannabis remain a misdemeanor offense under the bill approved by the Senate on Thursday. Public consumption of cannabis is also still illegal.

Supporters of the measure including state Sen. Laura Sturgeon argued that laws against marijuana do not work and refuted the common misconception that cannabis leads to the use of more dangerous drugs.

“Prohibition hasn’t worked and doesn’t work,”

, “and if there is a gateway drug, it’s alcohol, and nobody will pitch prohibiting that because prohibition did not work.”

Regulated Sales in Delaware To Be Considered Separately

Lawmakers will also consider a separate bill to legalize and regulate commercial cannabis production and sales. Supporters of cannabis reform separated the two issues of legalizing possession and commerce after a comprehensive measure failed to pass earlier this year.

But some senators including Republican Sen. Colin Bonini opposed the bill passed on Thursday, arguing that legalizing possession without regulating sales will encourage unregulated commerce.

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“The reality is that we might as well call this the ‘encourage legal behavior act,” Bonini said, “because where are you going to get it? You’re going to a drug dealer!”

Bonini added that while he supports cannabis legalization in general, he believes reform must include a “a safe regulatory environment” for legal cannabis.

Democratic Sen. Trey Paradee, the sponsor of both bills, said that he was also concerned about unregulated sales and asked for senators to support the regulation bill, as well.

“If we pass this bill and not the other one, I will personally ask the governor to veto this bill,” Pardee told his colleagues in the state legislature on Thursday.

Governor Opposes Legal Weed

Carney has long been strongly opposed to legalizing recreational cannabis, a position he reiterated in an interview with Delaware Public Media last year.

“Look, I just don’t think it’s a good idea,”

.

“As I look at other states that have it, it just doesn’t seem to me to be a very positive thing from the strength of the community, of the economy in their states,” the governor added. “Is it the worst thing in the world? No, of course not.”

Carney’s opposition to legalization was noted by some lawmakers as they discussed the legislation.

“The governor has expressed some concerns with this issue generally, and the reality for us as legislators is that we have to make these decisions in a little bit of a tumultuous setup here,”

on the Senate floor. “What I would ask and what I hope is that if and when this bill passes today, that the Legislature and the governor’s office will work together to ensure that the setup is what our constituents are asking, which is legalization in a safe, regulatory market.”

A spokesperson for the governor said that Carney will review the legislation when it reaches his desk. He has 10 days to veto the legislation if he wishes, although the measure was passed in both houses of the General Assembly with enough support to override a veto. He can also sign the measure into law or allow the bill to go into effect without his signature.

A.J. Herrington

About The Author

A.J. Herrington

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