Just in time to close out the 420 weekend, Delaware Governor John Carney confirmed that the state will legalize adult-use cannabis beginning Sunday, April 23rd. This makes Delaware the 22nd state in the U.S. to legalize recreationally, and the 39th to have some form of regulated cannabis market.
Delaware's Cannabis Law: House Bills 1 And 2
Delaware’s General Assembly passed two bills in March to allow for the creation of a regulated industry. House Bill 1 legalizes the “personal use quantity” of cannabis for people age 21 and older, defined in the act as 1 ounce or less of flower, 12 grams or less of concentrates, and 750 milligrams or less of products containing Delta-8 THC. House Bill 2 establishes the state’s regulated adult-use industry, which will include the granting of 30 state-issued retail licenses through a bidding process to take place over the next 16 months following the bill’s passage into law.
Though Carney is a staunch opponent of cannabis legalization, the governor claims he will not keep the bills from passing. They will, however, go through without his signature. A successful veto override on state legislation has not been done in Delaware since 1977, making this moment truly historic.
Why Is Delaware Governor John Carney Allowing Cannabis Legalization?
Declaring in a statement that he believes legalization “is not a step forward,” Carney nevertheless explained his reasoning in allowing the bills to pass: “I want to be clear that my views on this issue have not changed. And I understand there are those who share my views who will be disappointed in my decision not to veto this legislation. I came to this decision because I believe we’ve spent far too much time focused on this issue, when Delawareans face more serious and pressing concerns every day. It’s time to move on.”
The governor went on to say that he could not sign the bills due to his concerns about the health consequences that cannabis legalization could have on children, as well as roadway safety. To these concerns one might remind him that, if Delaware’s statewide agencies are properly educated about cannabis and retailers and others in the supply chain are given the right systems to verify ages during purchasing, those measures will go a long way toward addressing a plethora of safety issues.
State Representative Edward Osienski, the primary sponsor of HB1 and HB2, affirmed he will work with the Carney administration to ensure the regulatory process goes smoothly. “We know that more than 60 [percent] of Delawareans support the legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use, and more than two-thirds of the General Assembly agreed,” he commented in a news release. Osienski thanked the governor for "listening to the thousands of residents who support this effort and allowing it to become law,” and added words of gratitude to advocates for their patience and fortitude. He concluded, “We’ve reached the mountaintop, and it feels great to finally get there. I hope everyone enjoys the moment.”
What's Next For Delaware's Cannabis Industry?
Even following HB1 and HB2’s passage, it will still be illegal for Delawareans to consume cannabis in public. Employers will also be allowed a zero-tolerance policy toward any employees who use recreational cannabis during work hours or while onsite.
HB2 includes a “marijuana control enforcement fee” of 15 percent, and 7 percent of the tax revenue from the state’s cannabis industry will go into a Justice Reinvestment Fund. Lawmakers intend this fund to create grants and services focusing on restorative justice and reducing the state’s prison population. While there is no official word yet on expungement, Delaware NORML Executive Director Laura Sharer praised the legislators’ “progressive and equitable approach toward cannabis policy.”
Which States Have Legalized Cannabis?
Curious which states have legalized adult-use and medical cannabis? Click here for a breakdown of all states and major cities in the U.S. that have legalized cannabis and psychedelics, and where they are still criminalized.
Want to help change your state's cannabis laws? Check out pending legislation and actions through the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), or find out how you can join the fight to free cannabis prisoners through Last Prisoner Project.
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Featured image: Screengrab via CBS News