Latest marijuana bills head to House

Minor changes from previous legislation
January 26, 2023

This year’s attempt to pass a bill to legalize recreational marijuana is ready for action by the full House after moving through their respective committees this week.

“This is kinda like deja vu,” said prime sponsor Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, during a Jan. 24 House committee hearing. “There are very little changes to what I presented to you last year.”

A companion bill would regulate the recreational marijuana industry in Delaware. 

Changes include one-time cost increases from $1.6 million to $1.9 million in the current fiscal note for House Bill 2 – the bill laying groundwork to regulate a marijuana industry in the state – along with a general fund increase of $2.1 million to $2.2 million. 

In House Bill 1 to legalize up to an ounce of marijuana for people 21 and older, wording was added to include edible products and other items that include cannabinoids, not just plant products.

Potency levels of an ingestible product were a concern raised by Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown. Ingestible or edible cannabinoid products do not have immediate effects the way the smokable product does, which can lead to cases of ingesting too much THC, the chemical that produces a high.

“One of the questions with this whole thing is the psychoactive combination that it has,” she said, adding that young people will surely get ahold of edible products even though the bill prohibits sales to them.

Along the lines of unintended consequences, Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, D-Wilmington, said he gets emails every day from a woman in his district who lives in a row home.

“The smoke comes through the wall and vents of her home,” he said. “Some nights she comes home and literally walks into a cloud like she is walking into a smoke shop.”

She has to open her windows to air out her home, causing high electric bills in the winter, he said, and she has been called to her daughter’s school over concerns that her daughter smells like marijuana.

“These are true challenges this family faces every day and I hope we think about it, even if it’s another piece of legislation,” he said. “This issue is real.”

This marks the fourth attempt to pass a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in Delaware. In 2018, the first attempt failed in the House, followed by a failed try in 2019. A bill passed both the House and Senate in 2022, only to be vetoed by Gov. John Carney, who has been against legalization from the beginning. The bill died after the House was unable to override his veto.

The bill to regulate a marijuana industry failed by one vote to receive the 25 supermajority votes needed to pass. 

This session, however, new members could give it a push, now that two legislators – one who voted no and another who was absent – were replaced during the election.


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