Marijuana legalization passes General Assembly

Gov. John Carney remains opposed
May 12, 2022

Delaware’s nearly four-year attempt to legalize marijuana paid off May 12 when the Senate passed a bill one week after it passed in the House. The future of legalized marijuana in Delaware is now up to Gov. John Carney, who has said he does not support legalization. As long as Carney does not veto the bill, it could still become law 10 days after it reaches his desk, if he declines to sign it.

The Senate passed the bill by a 13-7 vote along party lines, with Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna, the only Democrat opposing it. Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, was absent.

The bill’s Senate sponsor was Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, who said passage has been a long time coming, but the regulation component in a companion bill must also be passed.

“I want to go on record that if we pass this bill today ... if by June 30 we do not pass the regulatory piece, I will personally ask the governor to veto this bill,” he said.

House Bill 371 allows adults to have up to an ounce of marijuana without penalty, and also allows the transfer of up to an ounce between adults.

Penalties remain, however, for possession of marijuana by those under 21; possession by adults of more than an ounce of marijuana; public consumption; and driving under the influence of the drug.

Civil penalties for possession by those under 21 are a $100 fine for a first offense, $200 to $500 for a second offense, then back to $100 for third and subsequent offenses.

Those who consume marijuana in a public place or in a moving car could face a $200 fine, and those who possess more than one ounce of marijuana could face a $575 fine and three months in prison.

A week ago, the bill passed the House 26-14, exceeding a supermajority vote by one.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, took the lead in fighting for legalization after the first marijuana legalization bill failed in 2018.

But success came only after he separated legalizing marijuana from a bill to regulate a marijuana industry in Delaware. With those issues together, the bill needed a three-fifths majority to pass because of fees associated with regulation. After separating the bills, the legalization portion only needed a simple majority to pass. A regulation bill, House Bill 372, was recently moved out of committee and now awaits action in the House. The bill still needs a three-fifths majority to pass.

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