Delaware makes history as it joins the growing list of states to legalize recreational marijuana, bringing forth a new era of cannabis policy, economic growth, and restorative justice in the First State. Read on for more info about what’s to come for adult use in Delaware.
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Governor’s Decision to Allow Legalization
On April 21, 2023, Delaware Governor John Carney announced he would not veto two legalization bills, HB1 and HB2, allowing them to become law without his signature. Despite Governor Carney’s opposition to broad legalization, he recognized that opposition to cannabis reform is no longer a priority and stated, “It’s time to move on.” This decision marks a shift in the state’s stance on cannabis, with Governor Carney acknowledging that more pressing issues are at hand for Delawareans.
Delaware has now become the 22nd state to legalize adult-use cannabis. HB1 legalizes the personal possession of up to an ounce of cannabis for those 21 and older, while HB2 sets up a framework for a regulated adult-use market. State regulators are expected to begin accepting applicants for retail, cultivation, and product manufacturing licenses within 13 months.
Both bills had passed the legislature with supermajority votes, and sources suggest that, unlike last year, the Democratic-controlled General Assembly would have had sufficient votes to override the Governor’s veto this time. Representative Ed Osienski (D) sponsored both bills, with Sen. Trey Paradee (D) leading the charge in the Senate.
How Will Legalization of Recreational Marijuana in Delaware Impact Workforce Productivity and Creativity?
Impact on Medical Cannabis and Expungement Laws
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Delaware’s medical cannabis program has permanently allowed home delivery of medical cannabis to qualified patients and caregivers throughout the state. This policy change demonstrates the state’s commitment to ensuring patients have access to their medicine even in challenging circumstances.
Additionally, the state has enacted various expungement bills, making it easier for individuals with cannabis-related convictions to clear their records. The series of expungement laws passed between 2018 and 2021 allows for automatic qualification for mandatory expungement of certain cannabis convictions and the clearing of misdemeanor and felony cannabis convictions after a specified period. These laws contribute to a more equitable approach to cannabis policy and help address the long-lasting impact of past convictions.
Economic Implications and Future Outlook
The recreational marijuana industry is projected to bring in tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue for Delaware. With the legalization of recreational marijuana, the state will distribute 30 retail licenses through a competitive bidding process within 16 months of the legislation going into effect. A marijuana-control enforcement fee of 15% will be levied on recreational sales, with the revenue generated earmarked for grants and services that focus on restorative justice and reducing the state’s prison population.
Delaware’s legalization marks a significant step forward, with advocates celebrating a more equitable approach to cannabis policy. The state aims to develop a robust regulatory system that protects vulnerable residents and focuses on restorative justice and reducing the prison population. Laura Sharer, Delaware NORML executive director, praised the state’s progressive and equitable approach, stating, “This is a significant step towards creating a fair system that respects personal freedom, promotes public health and safety, generates economic growth, and addresses social justice issues.”
As Delaware moves forward with its new cannabis policies, the state will work on implementing a solid regulatory framework to ensure public safety and address potential challenges experienced by other states with legal cannabis markets. Governor Carney has expressed his commitment to focusing on issues most important for Delaware families, signaling that the state’s priorities will continue to evolve in response to the changing landscape of cannabis policy.