John Carney is an artifact of the 1980’s and 1990’s, an era where Democrats were afraid to be Democrats. His prior opposition to the legalization of marijuana sounded like Nancy Reagan herself had been reanimated to just say no. Some Democrats of that era have evolved on this issue, namely the President. Namely every other potential Democratic successor to John Carney, namely the vast majority of the Democrats in the General Assembly.
Governor Carney will now have a second opportunity to evolve. The Senate today passed House Bills 1 and 2, the Delaware Marijuana Control Act.
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.
The vote on House Bill 1 was 16-4-1, with new Republican Senator Eric Buckson joining all the Democrats in voting yes, and the remaining four Republicans voting no, with Republican Senator Wilson absent.
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.
|House Bill 1 – Legalization of Recreational Marijuana||Currrent Status – Passed House 28-13. Passed Senate 16-4-1.|
|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 – Brown Gay Hansen Hoffner Huxtable Lockman Mantzavinos McBride Paradee Pinkney Poore Sokola Sturgeon Townsend Walsh // Buckson|
|House No Votes – Schwartzkopf // Briggs King Collins Dukes Gray Hensley Hilovsky Morris Postles Short Shupe Vanderwende Yearick||Senate No Votes – Hocker Lawson Pettyjohn Richardon|
|House Absents or Not Voting – None||Senate Absent or Not Voting – Wilson|
House Bill 2 would create a legal framework to regulate the cultivation, sale and possession of marijuana, provide opportunities for small businesses to be licensed, and ensure people living in areas disproportionately affected by the prohibition of marijuana have equal access to this new market. The bill also contains a new framework for directing some of the state proceeds from sales and licensing to justice reform efforts.
The vote on House Bill 2 was 15-5-1. A party line vote, with all Democrats voting yes with the future, and all Republicans voting no with the past, with Republican Senator Wilson absent.
The bill would regulate and tax marijuana in the same manner as alcohol. It would allow adults 21 and older to purchase a personal use quantity of marijuana from a licensed retail marijuana store. Under the bill, the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement (DATE) would absorb marijuana enforcement and create a separate, administrative Office of Marijuana Control Commissioner within the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
The legislation would allow for up to 30 retail licenses to be issued within 16 months of the bill’s effective date. It also would establish a competitive licensing process through the Office of Marijuana Control Commissioner using a scoring system that rewards applicants for paying a living wage, providing employer-paid health insurance, providing sick and paid leave to workers, hiring more full-time workers, focusing on diversity of workforce, and other factors.
HB 2 would establish a marijuana control enforcement fee assessed at point of sale, set at 15%.
The measure would direct 7% of the marijuana fee revenue to a Justice Reinvestment Fund. The proposed fund would be administered by the Criminal Justice Council and would be used to facilitate grants, contracts, services, or initiatives that focus on the following:
- Restorative justice, jail diversion, workforce development, industry-specific technical assistance or mentoring services for economically disadvantaged persons in disproportionately impacted areas.
- Addressing the underlying causes of crime, reducing drug-related arrests, and reducing the prison population in this state.
- Creating or developing technology to assist with the restoration of civil rights and expungement of criminal records.
Because this bill addresses revenue and taxation, it requires a 3/5 vote in each chamber (25 in the House).
HB 2 would create new license pools for Social Equity and Microbusiness applicants. These applicants would have access to technical assistance programs, reduced fees, an adjusted points scale, and a waiver of the physical location requirement.
The new Microbusiness Applicant pool would be limited to applicants with majority ownership held by Delaware residents. These applicants would have reduced fees, though higher than Social Equity applicants, and an adjusted points scale. These applicants would have access to Cultivation and Product Manufacturing Licenses.
The bill allows municipalities to prohibit the operation of marijuana facilities within their borders through local ordinances that are not in conflict with municipal regulations enacted under this law.
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.
|House Bill 2 – Marijauna Regulation (Delaware Marijuana Control Act)||Currrent Status – House Passed 27-13-1. Senate Passed 15-5-1|
|House Sponsors – Osienski, Longhurst, Baumbach, Dorsey Walker, Heffernan, Lynn, Minor-Brown, Morrison, Chukwuocha, Griffith, Johnson, Lambert, Moore, Neal, Phillips, Romer, Williams, Wilson-Anton||Senate Sponsors – Paradee, Hoffner, Lockman, McBride, Pinkney, Sturgeon, Townsend, Gay, Huxtable, Poore, Sokola, 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 Schwartzkopf Williams Wilson-Anton // Smith Spiegelman||Senate Yes Votes – Brown Gay Hansen Hoffner Huxtable Lockman Mantzavinos McBride Paradee Pinkney Poore Sokola Sturgeon Townsend Walsh|
|House No Votes – Briggs King Collins Dukes Gray Hensley Hilovsky Morris Postles Ramone Short Shupe Vanderwende Yearick||Senate No Votes – Buckson Hocker Lawson Pettyjohn Richardon|
|House Absent or Not Voting – Bolden||Senate Absent or Not Voting – Wilson|
In response to the Senate’s passage of House Bill 1 and House Bill 2 on Tuesday, Senator Trey Paradee (D-Dover) release the following statement:
“I thank my colleagues for supporting this legislation — especially my friend Rep. Ed Osienski for his leadership on this issue in the House of Representatives.
If Delaware had a referendum process, marijuana would have been legalized years ago. Today’s vote sends a clear signal that the majority of our legislature — on behalf of the majority of Delawareans — support the legalization of marijuana and the creation of an infrastructure that will regulate and tax it.
It is nearly impossible to quantify just how much revenue our state has missed out on by failing to create this legal market. However, it’s easier to count the Delawareans whose lives and families have been torn apart by the failed War on Drugs. The enforcement of cannabis possession — even though it has been decriminalized — still disproportionately impacts marijuana-users of color. The arrests have continued, and as a result, lives have been turned upside down. Although a civil offense is not as harmful as an arrest, the citations cannot be expunged and still appear in public record searches. This gap has caused a number of Delawareans to miss out on life-changing job opportunities due to the appearance of citations on background checks.
As neighboring states move to legalize and regulate the sale of marijuana, Delaware is quickly becoming an island of prohibition — despite the reality that marijuana is here to stay. Today, we embrace that reality and take steps to shift what is currently an illegal market into a legal one that benefits Delaware’s economy.”
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