Delaware has been a nationwide leader in cannabis legalization, especially since the state’s first-in-the-nation medical marijuana program took effect in 2001. But with a change in the Delaware state government, advocates are concerned that the state may not be able to continue its progress.
As the November 4, 2018 election results came in, there was a mixed reaction from both supporters and opponents of the legalization of marijuana in Delaware.
If you follow the marijuana movement, you may have heard that the Delaware General Assembly failed to pass a cannabis legalization bill this past month. I wanted to know what advocates in the state thought about the developments and whether it might mean Delaware has lost momentum in its effort to end cannabis prohibition.
Delaware is preparing for possible legalization this legislative session. This possibility seems promising, especially as we have followed developments in Virginia, Connecticut, and other newly legal states. However, that is not the case now, as the amendments delay the development of legal cannabis until at least 2022.
HB 150, a bill that would have legalized cannabis for adult use in Delaware, passed the House and Human Development Committee in March by a 10-5 vote. The Wilmington City Council also passed a resolution supporting the decision, and polls show strong support for the law in Delaware.
So there seemed to be progress when the House of Representatives voted on the 10th. June was going to vote on legal cannabis. But the bill was pulled from the agenda just hours before the vote. Now the activists are not losing hope and are talking about the next steps.
Cheating in Delaware
Part of our effort was to create a level playing field for those who suffered most from the failed war on drugs. However, the inclusion of our Social Justice Fund proposal would result in Bill 150 receiving a 3/4 majority under the Delaware Constitution, said Representative Ed Osienski, a Democrat and the bill’s primary sponsor. It’s simple: We do not have the 31 votes to pass the bill in this form.
However, the elimination of the fund – which would restore the 3/5 majority originally achievable – would further test our commitment to these communities. My challenge at the moment is to find a compromise that all supporters can agree to. Once we reach that compromise, I will submit HB 150 for consideration. I intend to continue working with all parties to find a solution that will make Delaware the next state to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.
Zoe Patchell, executive director of Delaware CAN, also expressed disappointment with the delay, saying that criminal justice and law enforcement reform is an urgent issue that cannot wait another year. People’s livelihoods are at stake. We hoped, for the sake of all the people and communities who suffer daily from cannabis prohibition, that lawmakers would come to an agreement before the end of the session and finally stop arresting and contacting police for behavior that is now legal in 18 states and our nation’s capital, Patchell said.
Patchell further explained that the people most affected by the war on drugs are people of color and people from lower socioeconomic classes. The cost of waiting will be thousands of lives lost, continued targeted enforcement, especially in poor communities of color, and likely an increase in cannabis-related crime. We also expect consumers to flock to New Jersey and begin forming secure access networks, Patchell said.
Laura Sharer, executive director of Delaware NORML, added: Legalizing cannabis is not just about recreational use or making money. This crucial reform aims to undo centuries of racist policies that have disproportionately affected black and Latino communities. It is about rebuilding the communities that have suffered the most damage. And it’s about ensuring that everyone has access to the opportunities that the legal cannabis market offers.
All arrests failed. With legalisation, we have the opportunity to implement a cannabis policy that focuses on public health. The challenge now is to bring our legislators together to get this approved as quickly as possible.
Activists want legal cannabis and have been pushing for it in Delaware for a decade, but it looks like their efforts will be delayed by at least a year.
Legalization won’t happen overnight in Delaware, it will take real work, Patchell said. We are dealing with powerful and well-funded opponents who want to enforce cannabis prohibition and its control over our residents. Every year our legislators seem to capitulate to these forces. We do not have the ability to put legalization on the ballot, and our legislative action still requires a super majority vote. That’s why our supporters and advocates will be working hard in the coming months to put Delaware on the path to a brighter future with legal cannabis.The Delaware Legislature passed Senate Bill 11 on Monday, sending it to the governor’s desk. The legislation would undo the state’s successful 2016 legalization of medical and (limited) recreational marijuana, and I am here to tell you why it is a huge mistake. It’s a major step backwards for our state, and it will only serve to push our state backwards on the issue of marijuana legalization.. Read more about delaware hb 150 and let us know what you think.
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