Dewey leaders blunt about weed

Rehoboth officials also begin discussions about marijuana
June 20, 2023

Story Location:
Rehoboth Beach City Hall
229 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

After years of effort, adult use of marijuana was legalized in Delaware in April.

In Dewey Beach, commissioners voted unanimously June 16 to expressly prohibit the production and sale of marijuana and marijuana-related business activities.

Town Manager Bill Zolper said he has 30 years of law enforcement experience and considers marijuana to be a gateway drug. The town has 15 establishments that serve alcohol in a three-quarter-mile area, he said, and if there are no marijuana dispensaries in town that would be one less thing to worry about.

Police Chief Constance Speake said the law prohibits public consumption of marijuana, which a lot of people don’t understand. In her experience, she said, people will buy marijuana in a dispensary and begin smoking when they leave the establishment.

“They're going to go buy their product and then they’re going to be out on the street smoking dope, which is against the law,” she said. “You're going to have a lot more people going up and buying their dope and they're going to be right on the street corner smoking dope all over town.”

Commissioner Gary Persinger said he saw no significant benefit to allowing dispensaries, and Commissioner Paul Bauer said the town has become more family-friendly in recent years. Commissioner Elisabeth Gibbings said residents would not experience hardship by having to drive to a dispensary outside of town.

Mayor Bill Stevens said he doesn’t agree with restricting business, especially if the state has approved such businesses, but from a public safety perspective, safety comes before personal rights.

Rehoboth begins discussion

In response to the change, Rehoboth Beach officials are discussing how the city should move forward enforcing the new law.

There was a brief discussion at a commissioner workshop June 5. City Manager Laurence Christian said marijuana is a hot topic among Delaware’s city managers. He said he brought the issue forward because he would like guidance from commissioners on where the city should go.

Rehoboth already has a prohibition on smoking tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars and pipes, in city parks and playgrounds, along the Boardwalk and access ways, the Bandstand plaza, and the beach and dune crossings.

Mayor Stan Mills said, at the very least, he would be in favor of marijuana rules being as restrictive.

City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said there’s a planned workshop with state officials for city solicitors across the state so they can learn the ins and outs of the law, and be able to provide appropriate guidance as municipalities move forward with rules.

Resident Carolyn Diefenderfer urged commissioners to be more restrictive about marijuana than tobacco. She said she doesn’t want to sit on the beach and smell it coming from one of the designated smoking areas.

A specific date has not been set, but commissioners are expected to resume discussion on the subject soon.

Employee rules related to marijuana use

The public’s use of marijuana isn’t the only avenue the city is exploring. As part of an overall update to the city’s personnel code and procedures, the city’s personnel committee discussed the subject during a meeting June 16.

Similar to the workshop, the discussion was more of a jumping off point and served as a heads up to commissioners that this was a forthcoming issue.

As proposed, the personnel code would require all individuals who are offered a job to complete a drug test as a precondition to employment. This is a change from current procedures, which only requires police, lifeguards or positions involving safety-sensitive activities to take a drug test.

Additionally, the new proposed language says, “Aside from safety-sensitive positions where the use of medical marijuana cannot be accommodated, reasonable accommodation will be made for positive results for medical marijuana on the drug test. Accommodations will not be made for its use, possession, influence or transfer at work.”

Attorney Jim McMackin represents the city on employee-related issues. He didn’t have much to say on the subject at the meeting, because when many of the other changes to the personnel procedures were made, marijuana wasn’t yet legal. They will be addressed, he said.

Christian and McMackin are expected to take the changes back to employees for discussion. When that discussion with employees is completed, the proposed changes will go to city commissioners for a vote as part of an overall package of changes to personnel procedures.


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