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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Marijuana legalization bill removes Delaware House

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Dover, Dell (AFP) – The House of Delaware voted Thursday to approve a bill that would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults for recreational use.

The legislation passed the Democratic-led House of Representatives by 26 to 14 and now goes to the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats. Even if it passes in both houses, it faces a potential veto from Democratic Governor John Carney, who has previously expressed skepticism about the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Under current law, possession of one ounce or less of marijuana by anyone age 21 or older is punishable by a $100 civil fine. This provision will be overturned by law approved Thursday.

Possession of recreational marijuana by anyone under 21 will still result in a civil penalty, while possession of more than one ounce of marijuana and public consumption will still result in a misdemeanor.

The bill approved Thursday in late March was introduced as stand-alone legislation after a failed attempt to pass broader legislation to create a state-regulated and taxable marijuana industry.

“Delaware is more than capable of enacting successful policies for safe and legal cannabis,” bill leader Representative Ed Usinsky, a Democrat from Newark, said in a statement after Thursday’s vote. “I am grateful to the House of Representatives for passing this law and look forward to continuing this effort as the State of Delaware prepares to create a new legal industry in our state.”

Passing the legalization bill requires only a simple majority, but legislation creating a state-licensed marijuana industry requires a three-fifths majority vote in each chamber because it would create a new tax.

Legislation that would have legalized recreational marijuana use by adults and created a state-run pot industry was defeated in the House of Representatives in March. Members voted 23-14 in favor of the legislation, but it fell by two votes from a three-fifths majority. None of the Republicans voted for the bill, and four lawmakers, including two Democrats, chose not to vote.

House Speaker Pete Schwarzkopf of Rehoboth, a retired soldier, was the only Democrat to vote against this bill. He also voted against the legalization bill Thursday, along with fellow Democrat Bill Bush of Dover and 12 of 15 GOP representatives.

Meanwhile, a separate Osienski-sponsored bill to create a state-run marijuana industry passed the House Revenue and Finance Committee last month and is awaiting consideration by the Appropriations Committee.

Supporters of this legislation argued that a state-controlled and licensed pot industry would reduce the black market while creating jobs and strengthening Delaware’s tax coffers. The bill calls for the state to license and supervise the manufacturing and distribution industry and to impose a 15% tax on retail sales. It will prevent people from growing their own plants for personal consumption.

Opponents argued that legalization would increase marijuana use among teens and young adults, expose business owners to liability, and lead to more deaths and traffic injuries. They also say it will do little to crack down on illegal sales.

The Associated Press reported in January that marijuana legalization in California has done little to discourage black market sales in that state, and that some licensees in California are simultaneously participating in the black market — an estimated $8 billion worth of nearly twice the amount of legal sales. – In order to make a profit.

Currently, recreational marijuana use is permitted in 18 states and the District of Columbia.

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