The legalization of recreational marijuana may one day be a reality in Delaware. State lawmakers have introduced a bill to make the sale and purchase of weed legal.
The Delaware Marijuana Control Act, or House Bill 110, will permit the state to regulate, tax, and create a framework for distribution of marijuana. The new law will allow anyone over the age of 21 to buy, possess, and consume weed.
The state will levy a $50 tax on every ounce of pot. Delaware’s Department of Education will receive 20 percent of the revenue. Another 30 percent will be distributed to the Department of Health and Social Services to be used toward drug abuse prevention programs, public education, and other community projects. Money will also be allocated to pay for administration of the marijuana program.
The marijuana legalization law prohibits individuals from growing their own cannabis plants or creating any byproducts. The anticipated rules do not allow anyone to smoke pot in public, and employers cannot mandate routine drug tests. Clear product labeling will also be required so no one can mistake that they are buying legal weed.
Under the new rules, a maximum of 40 stores statewide will be licensed to sell recreational weed. Businesses looking to sell the drug will need to pay a $5,000 licensing fee, followed by a $10,000 renewal payment every two years.
The proposed marijuana legislation looks very similar to current Delaware alcohol laws. Similar to the state’s Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner, a Division of Marijuana Control and Enforcement will be created and a marijuana commissioner will be tasked with establishing specific weed distribution guidelines.
The bill’s sponsors, 13 Democrats and one Republican, predict legalization will significantly reduce the number of people sentenced to jail for nonviolent crimes.
“The War on Drugs has produced few winners, but plenty of losers. We’ve spent a staggering amount of time and money arresting and prosecuting low-level marijuana offenders,” said Senator Margaret Rose Henry, according to a report from the Philly Voice. “The prohibition of marijuana has grown our prison population to unsafe levels; it has derailed thousands of lives and wasted immeasurable potential; and it has perpetuated unacceptable racial disparities in our criminal justice system.”
They also hope legal recreational marijuana will bring in millions of dollars and create jobs in Delaware.
“House Bill 110 creates an entirely new industry in our state,” said Representative Helene Keeley, as quoted by Delaware Online. “As the only state in a seven-hour drive to have legalized marijuana, we would become a destination that would attract out-of-state sales, which would have a benefit to our Delaware businesses.”
Opponents criticize marijuana legalization in Delaware, saying recreational use will only open the door to harder drugs. Governor John Carney promised to veto the bill if it reaches his desk. Matt Denn, the state’s attorney general, is also against the cannabis legislation.
While some state officials oppose marijuana legalization, Delaware residents like the idea. A Gallup poll conducted last year found 60 percent of the population wanted recreational weed. In 1995, only one-quarter supported weed legalization.
“I think society as a whole understands that a lot of people at the end of the day instead of going home and having a glass of wine go home and enjoy marijuana. And it’s just the reality,” said Keeley, as cited by the Delaware State News.
The bill needs affirmative votes from two-thirds of both the House and Senate before going to the governor. Keeley is confident there are enough votes to get the marijuana measure passed.
“This is where the grassroots support starts,” Keeley said, per the same Delaware Online report. “For advocates, now is their chance to call their legislator and tell them they want this.”
While marijuana legalization in Delaware took a step forward with the introduction of HB 110, the federal government still considers marijuana an illegal substance. It is still unclear if the Trump administration will eventually interfere with states that have legal recreational weed.
Medical marijuana is already legal in Delaware and the drug was decriminalized in 2015. Should the bill become law, Delaware will become the ninth state to legalize recreational cannabis use.
[Featured Image by David Ramos/Getty Images]