Marijuana regulation bill down but not out

Procedural move allows sponsor to bring back legislation despite defeat
May 20, 2022

A bill to create a regulated marijuana industry in Delaware failed for the second time this session, but it may soon return following a procedural move by the bill’s sponsor.

The bill needed a three-fifths majority vote because of taxes and fees that would go along with marijuana purchases, businesses and cultivation within the state. It was defeated when it failed to get the 25 votes needed.

Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, changed his vote from yes to no for a final tally of 23-15 with two absent and one not voting because of a conflict of interest. The vote change is a procedural move that allows Osienski to bring the bill back again this session, as he was part of the prevailing vote.

Osienski said he plans to bring back HB 372 for consideration when the General Assembly returns in two weeks.

“I’m disappointed in Thursday’s outcome on HB 372, but there are positive signs from the vote. We had 24 ‘yes’ votes in the chamber – the most we’ve ever had on this issue. One co-sponsor and supporter of this effort to legalize and regulate adult recreational marijuana, Rep. Larry Mitchell, wasn’t well enough to take part in session. Had he been present, we would have had enough votes to pass the bill. I wish him well and look forward to seeing him in Legislative Hall when we return in June,” Osienski said. “While I’m disappointed, I’m not giving up on this issue. We have continued to make small steps forward, and I’m still hopeful that we can take these final steps toward creating a well-regulated and safe industry for adult recreational marijuana in Delaware.”

Sussex County Republicans voted against the bill, with Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, absent. In a reversal of past votes, Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, voted in favor of the bill.

Schwartzkopf said even though he is not a fan of legalized marijuana, he had promised his caucus that if the previous marijuana bill that was defeated was split into a legalization bill and a regulation bill, he would support the regulation part.

“I don’t want marijuana legalized without any guidelines,” he said.

A separate bill legalizing up to one ounce of marijuana for adults received final passage in the General Assembly May 12, and has since moved to Gov. John Carney for action. Carney has said in the past he does not support legalizing marijuana, and his position has not changed, said his spokesperson Emily David.

Unless Carney vetoes it, the bill could still become law without his signature 10 days after he took possession of it, which he did May 19. If he vetoes the bill, the General Assembly could override his veto with a three-fifths majority.

Any decision Carney makes will come before the General Assembly returns from a two-week break that started May 19.

“The governor has to make a decision before we get back, so I don’t know how it will go,” Schwartzkopf said.


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