Delaware House Approves Legalization Bill

The Delaware measure is expected to pass in the Senate, but the governor’s expected veto looms.

Lawmakers in the Delaware House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill to legalize adult-use marijuana in the state––but the governor’s veto pen continues to loom over the effort.

The bill passed the chamber on a bipartisan vote of 28-13, according to Delaware News Journal, which noted that the measure picked up two votes from Democratic lawmakers who had not previously supported cannabis legalization. 

The lone Democrat to vote against, according to the newspaper, was the party’s leader in the chamber, House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf.

Schwartzkopf is not the only senior Delaware Democrat to break from his party in opposing cannabis legalization––a policy that is supported by a large majority of Democratic voters nationwide, and that has become a virtual mainstream position among Democrats in Washington and state Houses across the country.

Delaware’s Democratic governor, John Carney, has been firm in his opposition to marijuana legalization. 

Last year, after a similar bill was passed by both chambers of the Delaware general assembly, Carney vetoed the measure, and lawmakers were unable to generate enough votes to override the veto.

“[The legalization bill] would, among other things, remove all penalties for possession by a person 21 years of age or older of one ounce or less of marijuana and ensure that there are no criminal or civil penalties for transfers without remuneration of one ounce or less of marijuana between persons who are 21 years of age or older,” Carney said in his veto statement at the time.

“I recognize the positive effect marijuana can have for people with certain health conditions, and for that reason, I continue to support the medical marijuana industry in Delaware,” the governor continued. “I supported decriminalization of marijuana because I agree that individuals should not be imprisoned solely for the possession and private use of a small amount of marijuana—and today, thanks to Delaware’s decriminalization law, they are not.”

“That said, I do not believe that promoting or expanding the use of recreational marijuana is in the best interests of the state of Delaware, especially our young people,” Carney added. “Questions about the long-term health and economic impacts of recreational marijuana use, as well as serious law enforcement concerns, remain unresolved.”

Undeterred, Democrats, who continue to hold majorities in the general assembly, renewed their legalization drive in January.

“My hope is that with continued open dialogue with the governor’s office, that will help alleviate a veto,” State House Rep. Ed Osienski, a Democrat who is sponsoring the new bill, said earlier this year. “I have more support from my members … for a veto override, but I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.”

Early signs are not great, as a spokesperson for the governor said earlier this year that his position on marijuana remains unchanged.

But still, the Democrats press on. According to Delaware News Journal, “the bill now makes its way to the Senate, where it is expected to pass, the looming question is if Democrats have the political support this time around to override another possible Carney veto.”

The newspaper has more details on the latest legalization proposals in the general assembly:

“House Bill 1 would remove all penalties for possessing 1 ounce or less of marijuana for those ages 21 and older. This legislation required a simple majority of 21 votes. As of now, marijuana is decriminalized in Delaware. The second bill, HB 2, would create a framework to regulate the growth, sale and possession of weed. Lawmakers say marijuana would be regulated and taxed the same way alcohol is. This legislation requires a three-fifths vote because it deals with revenue and taxation. This is expected to be voted on soon.” 

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