Delaware Set To Legalize Weed

The State President Biden represented in the US Senate for 36 years will become the 22nd State with recreational marijuana.

by Rowan Nathan · April 24, 2023

Delaware Set To Legalize Weed

The State President Biden represented in the US Senate for 36 years will become the 22nd State with recreational marijuana.

After previously vetoing similar legalization initiatives, the governor of Delaware says that he will not stand in the way of a pair of bills to legalize cannabis possession and establish the framework for a regulated adult-use market.

Democratic Governor John Carney surprised most advocates and reform supporters, when he indicated that he would let HB 1 and HB 2 go into effect– albeit without his signature or active support.

Delaware Governor John Carney

Carney stated that while his “views on this issue have not changed”, reinforcing that in his personal beliefs this is “not a step forward,” the moderate Democrat decided this fight was no longer worth fighting. “I understand there are those who share my views who will be disappointed in my decision not to veto this legislation,” he said in a statement. “I came to this decision because I believe we’ve spent far too much time focused on this issue, when Delawareans face more serious and pressing concerns every day. It’s time to move on.”

Although the Governor decided that he would no longer stand in the way of Delawareans getting their weed, he raised concerns and issued doubts about the onset of legal cannabis in Delaware, ironically nicknamed the FIrst State.

“I remain concerned about the consequences of a recreational marijuana industry in our state, I’m concerned especially about the potential effects on Delaware’s children, on the safety of our roadways, and on our poorest neighborhoods, where I believe a legal marijuana industry will have a disproportionately negative impact. Those concerns are why I could not put my signature to either House Bill 1 or House Bill 2.”

Carney continued, “As we implement House Bill 1 and House Bill 2, we will do everything in our power to protect children from accessing marijuana and marijuana-related products; prevent Delawareans and Delaware visitors from driving under the influence of marijuana; and closely evaluate the placement of marijuana dispensaries and other businesses, to ensure they do not become a blight on already disadvantaged communities. My goal will be to ensure that Delaware has a robust regulatory system that protects the interests of the most vulnerable Delawareans, to avoid the many challenges we’ve seen in other states, and to get back to focusing on issues that are most important for Delaware families.”

State Rep. Ed Osienski (D), the bills’ primary sponsor, said in a statement that he understands the Governor's concerns, and that he appreciates “him listening to the thousands of residents who support this effort.” Osienski proclaimed “After five years of countless meetings, debates, negotiations, and conversations, I’m grateful we have reached the point where Delaware has joined a growing number of states that have legalized and regulated adult recreational marijuana for personal use. I am committed to working with the administration to ensure that the effort to establish the regulatory process goes as smoothly as possible.”

Delaware State Rep Ed Osienski

Osienski continued his well deserved victory lap- “I have to thank my colleagues for standing together on this issue and contributing their input into the process. We have arrived at a stronger law, and Delaware will be better for it. I especially have to thank all the advocates who rallied for these bills and were patient as we negotiated, poked, prodded and cajoled our way to gaining enough support to pass the Marijuana Control Act. We’ve reached the mountaintop, and it feels great to finally get there. I hope everyone enjoys the moment.”

In addition to marijuana advocacy groups cheering the surprise news, it's also being lauded by cannabis industry insiders. Erik Ott, an M&A specialist who works with cannabis brands on east coast expansion and strategy tells “Despite the fact that retail sales won’t begin for another year the East Coast now has legal cannabis stretching from Maine to Maryland. Thirty retail licenses are expected to be granted in 2024 and it appears that it will be a competitive process and not a limited license model. Ott continues “..another great win for cannabis legislation, further cementing the East Coast as the epicenter for the emerging cannabis market.”

At a glance, the overview of both bills gives color on how the market will operate and what Delaware residents can expect;

Key provisions of Delaware’s HB 1 regulatory bill:

  • State statute would be revised to legalize the possession, use, sharing and purchasing of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults aged 21 and older.
  • To avoid abuses of the “gifting” provision, the bill stipulates that “adult sharing” would not include giving away cannabis “contemporaneously with another reciprocal transaction between the same parties” such as an exchange of a non-marijuana item.
  • Public consumption and growing cannabis would remain prohibited.
  • People under 21 who engage in such activity would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $100 for a first offense. Police could use discretion and issue a citation in lieu of that fine, however.

Key provisions of Delaware’s HB 2 regulatory bill:

  • The legislation would provide a basic framework to create a regulated system of cannabis commerce for adults in the state.
  • The Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement (DATE) would be responsible for regulating the market through a new Office of Marijuana Control Commissioner.
  • For the first 16 months of implementation, regulators could approve up to 30 cannabis retail licenses.
  • Applicants who show that they’d provide a living wage, health insurance coverage, sick and paid leave and focus on diversity in hiring would be prioritized in the licensing scoring process.
  • Seven percent of marijuana business fee revenue would go to a “Justice Reinvestment Fund” that supports restorative justice, workforce development, technical assistance for economically disadvantaged people and more.
  • That fund would also go toward “creating or developing technology to assist with the restoration of civil rights and expungement of criminal records.” However, the legislation itself doesn’t provide for automatic expungements.
  • In additional to conventional retail, cultivator, manufacturer and laboratory licenses, the bill would additional provide for social equity and microbusiness licenses (reserved for applicants with majority ownership by Delaware residents).
  • Localities would be able to prohibit marijuana businesses from operating in their area through ordinance.
  • Adult-use marijuana sales would be subject to a 15 percent sales tax. Medical cannabis products would not be taxed.

Look for advocacy groups to connect dots and point to Delaware as an example of a State with a moderate Democrat at the helm, relenting on his personal opinions toward cannabis to concede the changing tide and enable legislation the voters demanded. Hopefully a moderate Democrat with strong ties to Delaware is taking note in Washington DC