Marijuana bill voted down in House

Sponsor says he’ll keep working for legalization
March 11, 2022

A bill to legalize marijuana was voted dead March 10, but the bill’s sponsor vows to keep fighting for it.

“While I'm deeply disappointed by the outcome, I still firmly believe that Delaware is more than capable of successfully enacting policies for safe and legal cannabis, and I will continue working on this issue to win the support to make it a reality,” said Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, sponsor of HB 305, the Marijuana Control Act.

The bill required a three-fifths majority vote to pass because of funds and fees the bill would have generated, and it failed nearly along party lines by a 23-14 vote. Four people did not vote – two Democrats and two Republicans. Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, was the only Democrat who voted against the bill.

The former Delaware State Police officer has been clear over the years that he does not support legalized marijuana.

Two amendments from Democrats were added by a voice vote, but three amendments put forward by Rep. Michael Smith, R-Hockessin, were defeated along party lines. The defeat of his amendments prompted Smith to say he had planned to vote for the bill, but the partisan display changed his mind and he would abstain.

Osienski tried to change his vote to no so he could bring up the bill in the future through a procedural move, but Schwartzkopf had already gaveled the end of the vote.

Any member who voted on the prevailing side – in this case, voted no –  can move to rescind the roll-call vote and restore the bill, but this has to happen within three legislative days, by Tuesday, March 22, said Drew Volturo, deputy chief of staff for communications for the House Democrats. If that doesn’t happen, he said, Osienski could refile the same bill or a variation.

A half-hour after the bill’s defeat, Osienski sent out a press release.

"For the past several years, the majority of Delawareans have been clear that they support legalizing recreational marijuana for adult users. We have heard from numerous members of the public – advocates, veterans, retired law enforcement officers, educators and even faith leaders – who have overwhelmingly voiced support for legalizing adult recreational marijuana,” he wrote. 

"During that time, we have had numerous meetings with stakeholders, made several changes to our legislation, and engaged lawmakers to answer their questions and attempt to address their concerns. After all of this effort, I believe we owed it to the residents of Delaware to hold a full floor debate and vote on this issue. “

He thanked the advocates he has worked with over the past four years to craft the bill, and encouraged them to keep working for legalization.

“Throughout my time in the House, I've seen advocates sway opponents to various bills, and I believe legal recreational marijuana for adult users is no different," he wrote.

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