Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf was the only Democrat to vote no today on House Bill 1, the bill that would remove penalties for the adult possession of small amounts of marijuana, paving the way for legal adult recreational marijuana.
Sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski, House Bill 1 would remove all penalties for possession of a personal use quantity of marijuana, except for those who are under 21 years of age. Possession of more than a personal use quantity of marijuana and public consumption would remain unclassified misdemeanors. A personal use quantity would be defined as one ounce or less of leaf marijuana, 12 grams or less of concentrated cannabis, or cannabis products containing 750 milligrams or less of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.
Under current state law, the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana by a person 21 years of age and older carries a civil penalty of $100. That provision would be eliminated under HB 1. Possession, use or consumption of recreational marijuana by anyone under 21 would still result in a civil penalty.
Because this bill does not have any taxation or revenue aspect to it, the measure only required a simple majority, or 21 votes in the House. The bill easily cleared that hurdle, winning by a vote of 28-13, with the aforementioned supposedly Democratic Speaker voting with 12 Republicans in voting no. All other Democrats, along with Republicans Mike Ramone, Michael Smith and Jeff Spiegelman, voted yes.
HB 1 is part of a two-pronged effort to legalize and regulate adult recreational marijuana in Delaware. A companion bill, House Bill 2, has cleared a House committee and is slated for a floor vote on Thursday. That bill would create a legal framework to regulate the cultivation, sale and possession of marijuana, and provide opportunities for small businesses to be licensed. HB 2 would require a 3/5 vote in each chamber (25 in the House).
Neither bill would change existing state law regarding driving under the influence of an illicit or recreational drug. They also would not allow individuals to grow their own plants. Public consumption of marijuana would still not be permitted.
Employer enforcement largely would not change. Employers would be permitted to drug test workers for marijuana to ensure any zero-tolerance policies are being followed. They also would be able to discipline workers for being under the influence at work, as well as prohibit the consumption of marijuana at work.
Currently, recreational marijuana use is permitted in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Nearby states Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and New York have legalized adult recreational cannabis.
HB 1 heads to the Senate for consideration.
|House Bill 1 – Legalization of Recreational Marijuana||Currrent Status – Passed House 28-13. Senate Health & Social Services 3/7/23|
|House Sponsors – Osienski, Longhurst, Baumbach, Morrisn, Heffernan, Chukwuocha, Cooke, Dorsey Waler, Griffith, Johnson, Lambert, Lynn, Minor-Brown, Moore, Neal, Phillips, Romer, Williams, Wilson-Anton||Senate Sponsors – Paradee, Hoffner, Gay, Huxtable, Lockman, McBride, Sokola, Sturgeon, Townsend, Walsh|
|House Yes Votes – Baumbach Bolden Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Harris Heffernan Johnson Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Minor-Brown Moore Morrison Neal Osienski Parker-Selby Phillips Romer Williams Wilson-Anton // Ramone Smith Spiegelman||Senate Yes Votes –|
|House No Votes – Schwartzkopf // Briggs King Collins Dukes Gray Hensley Hilovsky Morris Postles Short Shupe Vanderwende Yearick||Senate No Votes –|
|House Absents or Not Voting – None||Senate Absent or Not Voting –|
“With each passing year, it becomes clearer that Delawareans are strongly in favor of establishing a safe, legal market for adult recreational marijuana. We have heard from numerous members of the public – advocates, veterans, retired law enforcement officers, educators and even faith leaders – who have overwhelmingly voiced support for this proposal. Neighboring states have endorsed legal cannabis, including Maryland last year,” said Rep. Osienski.
“It’s time for Delaware to join 21 other states, create a new industry with good-paying jobs, hurt the illegal market, and bring much-needed tax revenue into our state. I’m grateful to the House for passing this bill and look forward to continuing this effort until Delaware is poised to establish a new, legal industry in our state.”
“I have said this before and will say it again – I am fully committed to quickly passing House Bill 1 in the Senate and sending this legislation on to Governor Carney for his signature,” said Sen. Trey Paradee, the lead Senate sponsor for HB 1. “Delawareans have waited long enough to legalize marijuana. Now is the time.”