With less than a week until Delaware’s legislative session wraps up for the year, a bill to fully legalize marijuana could still pass.
The bill, H.B. 110, would permit adults over 21 to use, transport and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, as well as five grams of concentrates, for personal use. It wouldn’t allow individuals to grow their own plants, but it would establish a recreational marijuana retail system statewide.
A majority of Delaware voters (61 percent, according to a 2016 University of Delaware poll) support marijuana legalization, but the prospect of the bill’s passage remains uncertain. As currently written, 25 out of 41 representatives would have to approve the legislation—and insiders in the state capitol in Dover tell Marijuana Moment they’re not sure the votes are there.
But while many observers had crossed Delaware off the list of states that could legalize marijuana in 2018 weeks ago, Rep. Helene Keeley (D), the chief sponsor of the bill, added a comprehensive amendment last week that advocates believe gives the proposal a shot to pass before the legislative deadline.
The revised bill would set aside 20 percent of tax revenue collected from retail marijuana sales to fund substance abuse treatment programs, invest in seed-to-sale tracking and bar product packaging that might appeal to children. It would also remove three criminal penalties, which lowered the vote threshold to 60 percent because state law requires a two-thirds supermajority to pass any bill that includes criminal penalties.
The reason that a supermajority of 60 percent of lawmakers would still have to approve the bill even with the amendment is because the legislation still includes “fees and taxes,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at Marijuana Policy Project, said in an action alert email this week.
The revisions were partially responsive to a February report submitted by the Adult Use Cannabis Task Force, which was put together by Keeley in order to “study issues surrounding the possible future legalization of non-medical, adult use cannabis in Delaware.”
“Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D) and I took the discussion and comments received during the Adult Use Cannabis Task Force seriously and we believe this amendment reflects the hard work of the task force members,” Keeley said in a press release. “The Adult Use Cannabis Task Force brought together a variety of stakeholders and has compiled thoughtful and diverse information that would improve House Bill 110.”
“It has been a priority of mine to take our time and carefully study the issues and industries that would be impacted by cannabis regulation. We have the opportunity to create an entirely new industry in Delaware and I am committed to ensuring that cannabis is regulated responsibly and safely.”
Tom Donovan, an attorney who sat on the task force, wrote in a recent editorial for Delaware Online that “Delawareans will know one way or the other by June 30, if their interests are being served by their elected officials.”
“They will know if the 61 percent in favor of legalizing cannabis will be fairly represented when a vote on HB 110 is finally taken. They will know if they have a voice in creating sensible policies, or if politics as usual takes that away from them,” he said.
The bill will effectively die if it fails to pass, or doesn’t come up for a vote, before the June 30 end-of-session deadline.
One official familiar with the legislation told Marijuana Moment that a House vote would take place on Wednesday or Thursday, if at all. If the House does vote to pass the bill, it would then have to be taken up in the state Senate, where its likelihood of passage is unknown, by Saturday.
Should the bill ultimately pass, it could face another challenge: Delaware Gov. John Carney (D).
In February, a spokesperson for Carney told the Associated Press that the governor “does not believe now is the time to move forward with legalization.”
“The governor does not believe that Delaware should be a test case, and should instead continue to monitor implementation in other states.”
Marijuana Moment requested comment on the status of the governor’s position on the issue, but a representative from his office did not respond by the time of publication.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Delaware’s Marijuana Legalization Bill Is Still Alive
Numerous generations now have been taught to believe that those people who are supportive of any type of legalization of marijuana must be law-breaking, lazy, pot-smoking losers. This is simply not the case. The more we see legalization becoming a reality across the country, the more we can come to realize the truth that many different types of people support this movement.
Right now, we should be keeping an eye on the state of Delaware, where advocates are doing their best to push through legislation that would make legal marijuana a reality. Of course, they are not the first and probably will not be the last. This state though is proving to all that our past stereotypes of cannabis users are completely wrong.
Lawmakers in Delaware are altering their mindset about cannabis legality after seeing polls that are showing a great deal of support throughout Delaware and the country. It appears that most of the advocates working toward legalization are anything but the typical stereotypes. Most of the advocates currently working on changing Delaware’s state laws against cannabis use are women involved in the groups NORML, the NAACP and the Marijuana Policy Project.
These advocates include many very important members of the community. They include executive officers, lawyers and representatives among their numbers. One of the lawyers working to push the legality through has made it clear that it is the public that is helping out with this, with those that are able leading the bill along professionally as their abilities allow them to.
Work has been successful already with the coalition working to advance the legality of cannabis in Delaware. Further, they have succeeded in pushing the medical marijuana program through in 2011. In 2015 the group also helped create new laws that would stop people caught with a small amount of the drug from facing criminal charges in the state.
The increase in supporters seen throughout the country appears to be due to the fact that there are a lot of people that are more willing to voice their opinion than there was in the past. There is always strength in numbers, so as more people began to speak out in defense of cannabis legality more people naturally joined the ranks in pushing the new legislation through.
Registered lobbyist and cannabis policy reform advocate in Delaware, Zoe Patchell. (Photo: Jason Minto, The News Journal)
Even the Governor is joining the ranks of support stating that the new laws would raise revenue for the state. He also made a note that the revenue increase would not be the reason for bringing the bill in. He is very confident that the two-thirds vote that the bill needs will occur. Looking to other states that have already legalized marijuana gives Delaware voters and officials a good indication of what can happen financially for the state. And what they are seeing looks good.
It appears that the bottom line angle is gaining a good deal of support among legislators. With the help of the correct people advocating for the legalization of cannabis and making the arguments that will show the positive aspects of allowing recreational marijuana in the state, the possibilities are looking up.
While the revenue legality would bring in makes a huge impact on many, the true reasons for pushing to get marijuana legalized are much broader. Zoe Patchell, executive director of Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network, wants to help with the legalization because of the research she has done that proves that many ideas we have about the drug are myths created by years of governmental propaganda. Patchell now leads one of the advocacy groups working to legalize cannabis.
It is obvious that in Delaware just as elsewhere throughout the country, the people united to legalize marijuana are extremely diverse. From people in blue collar positions to those in white collar position and those higher even than that, it seems everyone is coming together for the sole purpose of improving the lives and health of those all around the country.
For some states the idea of legal cannabis may seem far off due to the fact that citizens initiatives are not an option for them – but lawmakers in many of those states are coming around to the idea and many have introduced legalization bills. Even if they know they won’t get the support they need, at least they are starting a dialogue about the issue in legislature. In Delaware, the Senator who wrote and introduced the state’s medical marijuana laws is now focusing her efforts on getting a legalization bill passed that would allow for adult use of cannabis.
Senator Margaret Rose Henry announced last fall that such a bill was in the works – and now she is finally preparing the final touches prior to introducing it to legislature for review and voting. The biggest battle for this bill would be if it were to be passed and find itself on the Governor’s desk because unfortunately, Governor Carney may be inclined to veto. However, Senator Henry is sure that they can write the bill in such a way that would include “safeguards” to ensure people are protected. These safeguards would be discussed with both state and local law enforcement, who are surprisingly supportive of such a bill.
“Law enforcement wants this bill. I’m pleased to tell you that there are police officers who think this is a good thing that we are going to reduce their having to arrest people who don’t need to be arrested,” said Rose Henry.
At the moment, no real specifics about the bill have been released – but it is expected to be modeled off of Colorado and other states that have already been operating with a legal cannabis industry. In doing so, they are hoping to learn what these states have found to be the biggest issues – and how they resolved them (if they have resolved them). Using Colorado as an example, they have adjusted many things regarding their legal cannabis industry since implementation of the law, most notably changing their packaging and labeling requirements for edibles and are working on restricting home growing in the hopes of preventing a black market.
“It’s going to be a learning process, and we’ve already learned a lot from Colorado and the corrections that they’ve made,” said Sen. Henry. “One of the things I’d like to do is take a trip there, we’ve talked to them on the phone.”
Luckily this learning process that Senator Henry is speaking of is being explored by four states with operating legal cannabis industries and 4 states who are in the process of implementing such policies, making it infinitely easier for those who plan to provide guidelines for legalization in other states as well. Sadly, that also gives people like Governor Carney the excuse they’re looking for – waiting to see what other issues these states run into, for example – to hold off on passing any such legislation. At this point, however, almost five years since Colorado and Washington legalized adult use of cannabis, it should be apparent that the sky hasn’t fallen, and legalization has had more benefits than negative impacts.
“Delaware cannot afford to wait on this issue, and 61% of Delawareans support taxing and regulating cannabis like alcohol for adults 21 and older,” said Patchell. “So to ignore the super majority in the state, I think, would not be a good idea.”
Originally published: The Marijuana Times
In June 2015, Governor Jack Markell of Delaware signed legislation to decriminalize possession of personal amounts of cannabis for adults in The First State.
Although House Bill 39 was signed in June, it was not set up to go into effect for six months. As of December 18, adults possessing up to one ounce of cannabis will no longer face criminal misdemeanor charges.
The law reclassified possession of up to one ounce of cannabis to be punishable by a civil violation and a $100 fine. Previously, adults caught with the same quantity could face up to six months in jail and a criminal record.
Any person under the age of 18 caught in possession of any amount of cannabis will still face criminal charges. Those between the ages of 18 and 21 will still face misdemeanor charges if caught in possession more than once. Anyone caught consuming cannabis in public or in a moving vehicle will still face criminal charges.
After dragging its heels for nearly 4.5 years, Delaware has finally opened its first medical cannabis dispensary. An indication of demand, a line of patients — some in wheelchairs and others with canes — 100 feet long formed in front of the dispensary in Wilmington hours before it opened for business on June 26. Unfortunately, the dispensary is offering Delaware’s sick little in the form of selection or economic motive to avoid the black market and shop the outlet.
High Prices & Limited Selection
While cannabis consumers in prohibitionist states like Ohio and Texas typically pay between $60 and $100 per quarter ounce of the herb on the black market, eager customers of the First State Compassion Center in Delaware were met with $55 eighths and a very limited selection. This is a harsh reality compared with legalized states that feature an open market, like Colorado, where ounces of top-shelf cannabis sometimes sell for $150 per ounce, or roughly $19 per eighth of an ounce.
According to Paul Hyland, the state’s public health administrator and the program’s supervisor, First State is charging $350 to $400 per ounce, depending on strain. The facility is permitted to grow no more than 150 plants. In its defense, the state does not tax cannabis sales. Said Hyland:
“They had one or two types of plants fail, so the price was somewhat inflated today compared to what we may see in the future.”
First State Compassion claims that prices will be discounted for seniors, low-income patients, and veterans. Unlike some others, Delaware won’t recognize card-carrying patients from other states. While expensive, the dispensary’s prices are about $100 per ounce less costly than neighboring New Jersey, where top-shelf ounces sell for $500 to $550 and are subject to the state’s 7 percent sales tax (despite the fact that other medications are not taxed).
Delaware also recognizes conditions not covered in New Jersey, including PTSD. New Jersey was petitioned to officially recognize PTSD for medical exemption, but it was rejected by Governor Christie, who said he didn’t want to expand the state’s medical cannabis program. In addition, Delaware allows patients to purchase up to three ounces of cannabis over a 14-day period (three times as much as permitted in New Jersey), but does not allow patients to medicate onsite.
Delaware also allows the sale of more than buds, a limitation of New Jersey’s program. Patients of First State Compassion will be able to purchase tinctures, capsules, and a variety of extracts. Those seeking edibles, like brownies or infused gummy bears, however, will leave disappointed. Although not mentioned in the state’s law, marijuana of the edible variety is being avoided by First State. Said Hyland:
“The law is silent on [edibles], but they bring in a whole series of safety issues, and we didn’t feel we were in the position to take them on.”
Approximately 340 patients in Delaware have obtained certification from their doctors to legally purchase and consume medical cannabis. Hyland said that about 100 others are being processed and awaiting their cards, a process that requires 60 days. Some experts believe that this number would be considerably higher if Delaware had opened a dispensary within a reasonable amount of time after passage of its medical law in 2011. Others question how far only 150 plants will go in a state with a population of just shy of one million.
Only a Pilot After All
However, patients in Delaware have little reason to celebrate. An expression of his open defiance toward his own state’s medical cannabis law, Democratic Governor Jack Markell announced that he would prevent the opening of two additional dispensaries, although they are required by Delaware’s law.
Officially, according to the governor, First State is operating under a pilot program for one year. At the end of that period, he will evaluate the program to see if he believes it should expand.
photo credit: firststatecompassion.com; philly.com