Committee Approves House-Passed Marijuana Legalization Bills in Delaware Senate
A Delaware Senate Committee has Approved Two Bills Passed by The House that Would Legalize Marijuana for Adults and Set Rules for How It Can Be Sold.
Both of Rep. Ed Osienski’s (D) bills were approved by the Senate Health and Social Services Committee on Wednesday.
Sen. Trey Paradee (D), who is in charge of the bill in the Senate, told the panel that the state’s current law, which only makes low-level possession of cannabis not illegal, is not enough.
“The arrests have kept going on, which has turned people’s lives upside down,” he said. “Even though a civil offense isn’t as bad as an arrest, the citations can’t be erased and still show up in searches of public records. Due to citations that show up on background checks, this gap has caused some Delawareans to miss out on jobs that could have changed their lives.
He said that current enforcement is unfairly harsh on people of color and that Delaware is becoming more of “an island of prohibition” as other states move to change their laws about marijuana.
At the hearing, a representative from Delaware’s Division of Public Health talked about how the state’s current medical cannabis program might be affected by broader legalization.
“Once adult-use laws were passed, the medical marijuana programs in other states were wiped out. In some states, over 75% of patients did not renew their cards,” she said. “The only way for the medical marijuana program to get money is through card and license fees… DPH wants to make sure that patients can still get marijuana products that have been thoroughly tested, even if recreational marijuana is legal.
Last session, the House sponsor, Osienski, took a similar two-pronged approach to reform. The legislature passed the basic legalization proposal but narrowly rejected the regulation measure. The old bill was vetoed by D. Gov. John Carney, and the House didn’t have to vote to override.
Osienski recently told 47 ABC News that he is “optimistic” and feels “pretty good” that they have the votes to override the governor’s veto if he tries to veto the bill again this time.
“I think my colleagues are saying, ‘OK, you had one chance to veto this, you did, and you were successful, but don’t count on us supporting that veto again,'” he said.
This month, the House passed both the simple legalization bill and the sales regulation bill with more than enough votes to override any possible veto.
In the Senate, the next step for the legal possession bill is a vote on the floor, while the first stop for the commercial bill is the Finance Committee.
Here’s What the Hb 1 Bill to Legalize Drugs Would Do:
State laws would be changed to make it legal for adults over 21 to own, use, share, and buy up to one ounce of marijuana.
So that “gifting” doesn’t get abused, the bill says that “adult sharing” doesn’t include giving away marijuana “at the same time as another transaction between the same parties,” like an exchange of a non-marijuana item.
Both using cannabis in public and growing it would still be against the law.
If someone under 21 does this, they could get a civil fine of up to $100 for their first time. But the police could use their own judgment and give a ticket instead of that fine.
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Here Is a Brief Summary of The Most Important Parts of Hb 2:
The bill would make it easier for adults in the state to buy and sell cannabis in a way that is regulated.
A new Office of Marijuana Control Commissioner would be run by the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement (DATE). DATE would be in charge of regulating the market.
During the first 16 months of legalization, regulators could give up to 30 licenses to sell cannabis to the public.
The licensing scoring process would give more points to applicants who could show they would offer a living wage, health insurance, sick and paid leave, and would hire people from different backgrounds.
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Seven percent of the money from marijuana business fees would go to a “Justice Reinvestment Fund” that helps with things like restorative justice, workforce development, technical help for people who are poor, and more.
This money would also be used to “create or develop technology to help people get their civil rights back and get their criminal records erased.” But the law itself doesn’t have any provisions for automatic expungements.
In addition to traditional licenses for retailers, growers, manufacturers, and labs, the bill would also include licenses for social equity and micro businesses (reserved for applicants with majority ownership by Delaware residents).
Through ordinances, cities and towns would be able to stop marijuana businesses from operating in their area.
Adult-use marijuana sales would be subject to a 15 percent sales tax. There would be no tax on medical cannabis.