Delaware Next To Vote On Legal Cannabis

By Kyle Swartz

June 2, 2017

The legalization movement continues to gain steam in America. Many state legislatures are currently considering bills that would allow recreational pot. All states that have passed progressive marijuana laws thus far have done so via voter ballot.

That may soon change.

Vermont nearly led the way. It set important precedent last month as the first state to approve legal pot in both its House and Senate. However, this bill died upon the governor’s desk, where Republican Governor Phil Scott axed it with his veto pen. And with state republicans unlikely to shift their anti-pot stance, legalization in Vermont remains a long shot in 2017.

But what about elsewhere? Many other states are debating legislation that could legalize cannabis. The next state where these efforts could soon come to a head is Delaware.

House Bill 110 in Delaware is positioned to come up for vote in the General Assembly later this month. Should it pass through both chambers and the governor’s office, it would regulate and tax a newly established legal cannabis market “in the same manner as alcohol.”

Individuals older than 21 would be able to possess, use, purchase, and transport one ounce (28 grams) or less of marijuana, no more than five grams of which could be concentrated.

The bill permits operation of marijuana businesses under licenses granted by the state. House Bill 110 imposes on these businesses the same limits on hours and holiday sales as apply to sales of alcohol.

Moreover, it prohibits cannabis use in public, by drivers or passengers in vehicles, and bans the smoking of marijuana anywhere that smoking tobacco or e-cigarettes is illegal. The bill maintains existing penalties for possession of one ounce or less for adults aged 18 to 21.

Unlike many other legalization measures, House Bill 110 would not allow the private cultivation of pot plants.

Co-sponsor, Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark has compared anti-cannabis laws to the prohibition of alcohol in the early 20th century. Banning booze “did not stop alcohol use. It put it under the cover of darkness,” Baumbach has said.

As usual, opponents have voiced concern over the prospect of more stoned drivers and underage users should recreational cannabis become legal. That and their disapproval for legalizing something they consider a dangerous drug.

Supporters of the bill will require a super majority, two-thirds of both the Delaware Senate and House, because the measure contains changes to criminal penalties. Specifically, these are new fines leveled for underage use.

Nevertheless, politicians in favor of House Bill 110 believe they have the votes necessary to pass the legislation. After all, unlike in other states, this bill has garnered support from Republican legislators.

Including Delaware State Senator Colin Bonini, R-Dover. Bonini himself proposed legalizing cannabis while running for state governor in 2016.

The man he lost to in the gubernatorial general election may not hold views so sunny towards cannabis.

Delaware Governor John Carney, a Democrat, has already held roundtables with advocates in favor of and against legalization. He’s also voiced hesitation about rushing into progressive cannabis laws without first seeing how similar laws play out further in states like Colorado and Washington.

Should Bill 110 reach his desk, Gov. Carney’s preference for patience will be tested.

A poll carried out in 2016 by the University of Delaware found that 61 percent of state residents were in favor of legalization. Only 35 percent opposed it.

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