Who do we want controlling marijuana?

April 6, 2021

Cannabis legalization for adult use has overwhelming support in Delaware - and indeed all of the U.S. Our Sussex County representatives need to stop supporting a failed, harmful, unpopular war on cannabis and represent the interests of their constituents, districts and state. With one exception, their performances at the first hearing of HB 150, The Delaware Marijuana Control Act, were shameful. Despite the ossified Sussex vote, the bill was released from committee by a 10-5 vote.

One of our lawmakers seemed to be rereading objections to the 2019 bill, and voiced objections that the current bill specifically addresses. Another astonishingly admitted that he found a 49-page bill too long to read. The least we can expect of our legislators is to have read a bill being deliberated and to come prepared. Instead we heard debunked medical claims, fictitious stats, and rehashed reefer madness. The exception, although he voted no, was Rep. Bryan Shupe, who came prepared and expressed an open mind on this issue. 

I respect honest opposition. I cannot respect those who make absurd claims that are belied by actual facts. By facts, I mean unbiased statistics published by government agencies like The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which notes no increase in traffic crashes following a state legalizing cannabis, or actual state data from several legal states showing decreases in teen cannabis use. Then there’s legalization opponent AAA who had the temerity to cite a study that they themselves funded.

Cannabis was made illegal in 1937. Like alcohol prohibition before it, cannabis prohibition has achieved zero of its goals; neither consumption nor supply has been diminished. A key difference is that alcohol prohibition was repealed after 13 years of failure while cannabis prohibition persists after eight decades. 

The failure of prohibition is quantifiable: a new SAMHSA report shows that 18.5 percent of Delaware adults admit they consume cannabis. That equates to nearly 150,000 of our friends, coworkers, and family. Consider: if you are in a random group of five people, the odds are good that one is a pot smoker!

The electorate has already decided this issue. A recent Gallup poll found 70 percent of Americans favor adult-use legalization; a third of Americans live in a state where cannabis is fully legal; a UD poll of 2018 found 61 percent of Delawareans in favor - a number that is surely higher in 2021. Support for legalization is broad across all segments of our often oppositional society: Democrat-Republican-independent, suburban-urban-rural, White-Black-Hispanic, conservative-liberal - all want the injustice of cannabis prohibition ended.

Given these numbers, if we truly believe in Lincoln’s ideal of a government of, by, and for the people, our representatives should support HB 150. It is illogical, impractical, and fiscally irresponsible to think that prohibition can eliminate cannabis from Delaware. The only question is who we want controlling this market, illicit drug dealers or legitimate businesses who provide jobs, revenue, and consumer safety. 

Mark Jacobs
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