This year’s legislative session ends in less than two weeks, and advocates of legalized marijuana were recently at Lewes Public Library making a final push for support.
Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, introduced a bill May 16 legalizing marijuana in Delaware.
The Delaware Marijuana Control Act, House Bill 110, creates a legal framework to regulate the production and sale of marijuana and establishes a new industry – 50 cultivators, 30 manufacturers, 15 retailers and 5 laboratories. The bill allows adults over 21 to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana from a licensed retail marijuana store. Under the bill, there would be a 15 percent tax on the marijuana.
About a dozen people met in one of the library’s small meeting rooms during the June 13 event. Everyone supported legalization, and the majority of those who attended said they supported it because it’s a safer alternative to opioids and alcohol. At least one person, Mark Jacobs of Lewes, simply described himself as an old hippy who would rather be around high folks than drunk folks.
Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network Executive Director Zoë Patchell led the discussion at the library. Delaware does not have ballot initiative, which means legislators are the only ones with the power to create laws. Patchell said to address that, Delaware CAN has street teams to conduct canvassing events in the neighborhoods of those legislators. It’s what all initiatives in Delaware do, she said.
Patchell said even if HB110 were to pass, the end to cannabis prohibition won’t end overnight. But, she said, the process to change the bill would be different. She explained that HB110 needs a three-fifths majority in the House and Senate because it creates a tax, but amendments in the future would only need simple majorities.
Patchell noted Delaware CAN is an all-volunteer organization working against powerful lobby groups. “We don’t give legislators any money. If we did, we’d probably be a little bit further,” she joked. Patchell said getting the votes to pass marijuana is going to have to come from New Castle and Kent county legislators. In Sussex County, she said, not one legislator is an advocate.
Patchell said HB110 doesn’t include everything pro-cannabis supporters want, like home cultivation, but she described it as a good step in the right direction. “This is a good foundation, said Patchell. “This is a Delaware-sized roll out of the program, which was done as a way for people who are against it to come on board.”
As of June 17, HB110 has been assigned to the House Appropriations Committee. The bill was reported out of the House Revenue and Finance Committee June 5. The final day of this year’s legislative session is Sunday, June 30.
Editor’s note: The story has been updated to show House Bill 110 would need a three-fifths majority in the House and Senate.