Delaware marijuana bill aims at equity, local footprint

New market in Mid-Atlantic region
March 18, 2021

Delaware's latest marijuana bill focuses on keeping profits local, while at the same time promoting fairness and social equity.

Legislators said March 18 they crafted the bill based on what has been done in the 14 states that have already legalized marijuana – many plagued by out-of-state corporate interests and heavy regulation that cut into local profits.

“We have studied what's going on in the other states and we feel we have a pretty good bill,” said Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark.

Senate sponsor Sen. Trey Paradee, D-West Dover, said Delaware's approach is safe, smart and responsible. “We've seen what has worked and not worked,” he said.

House Bill 150 would make it legal for those 21 and older to sell and buy marijuana. A Marijuana Control Enforcement Tax of 15 percent would be levied on the retail product, and those who grow, manufacture and sell it would pay application and licensing fees.

The bill creates a special licensing pool for social equity applicants, giving them access to the bill's four licensing categories: retail stores, testing facilities, cultivation facilities, and product manufacturing. The bill requires half of the retail store licenses to go to socially equitable applicants.

A microbusiness category would promote local ownership, requiring the business to be 51 percent owned and controlled by individuals who have resided in Delaware for five of the last 10 years. “Your Dogfish Head as opposed to Budweiser,” Osienski said.

Reduced fees and licenses would be given to social equity applicants, who would have access to technical assistance and a revolving loan fund.

Expungement would be allowed for those who have been convicted of marijuana offenses in the past, such as possession and sale of marijuana. However, those who have marijuana convictions connected to violent felonies, marijuana trafficking or sale of marijuana to minors would not be eligible.

A new commissioner and personnel would operate out of the existing Delaware Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement agency to save on costs.

Delawareans would still not be allowed to grow their own personal-use marijuana at home, and driving under the influence laws would apply. People would not be allowed to consume marijuana in public, and employers would still be allowed to fire employees for marijuana use. Municipalities are also allowed to prohibit marijuana facilities through local ordinances.

Two years ago, when the Legislature ultimately killed Delaware's first marijuana legalization, Gov. John Carney said he did not support legalizing marijuana. However, Paradee pointed out that Carney has never said he would veto the bill. Paradee said he also believes the bill has support in the Senate.

The bill has been assigned to the House Health & Human Development Committee and will be heard Wednesday, March 24.


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