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Issues with Delaware Marijuana Legalization Still Brewing

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The Cannabis Task Force, in charge of performing a study focused on legalization, says it needs more time to get its report to the state’s General Assembly. The request for more time was approved by Representative Helene Keeley and Senator Margaret Rose Henry. Examining data and drafting a recommendation is taking more time than anticipated.

Henry and Keeley’s proposal to legalize the adult use of marijuana moved forward via legislative committee, according to WHYY. The proposal, however, didn’t make it to the floor for a vote. Delaware estimates that legalization would generate about $22 million in taxable revenue.

Representative Keeley said, “If this legislation is passed, it’s a big change for Delaware, and I don’t mind, necessarily, making sure every side is heard, and that we do this in a manner that is thoughtful and thought out – as opposed to where other states have ended up having to go back and change their laws several different times because of roadblocks they encountered.”

Some stakeholders worry about public safety and regulatory issues, regardless of the support that legalization efforts have. Governor Carney isn’t supportive of legalization. He did give advocates a chance and did hear their side of the story. He hasn’t voiced whether he will support the bill or not if it makes it to his desk.

Initially, the Cannabis Task Force was given just three months to complete its recommendation for the General Assembly. Cathi Rossi of AAA Mid-Atlantic indicates that the timeframe given was insufficient given the information requested.

Rossi said, “There’s a myriad of issues and sub issues, not of all which have known answers – there’s too many unanswered questions.”

She also said, “Other states have plunged into the murky waters of legalization and they’re drowning in problems. They’re telling other states to wait. So as we move through this process, it’s important to take our time in thoughtful deliberation on the issues and to ask questions about the issues—and frankly, we haven’t had a whole lot of time to do that.”

A major hurdle for Delaware has been appropriately taxing marijuana.

Keeley hopes that the task force’s recommendation is positive and that the General Assembly will have confidence in supporting it.

Keeley said, “We have to gather all this information and put it in a report. And then the legislators read the report and they make up their mind whether they believe what we put forward are stringent enough for them to feel comfortable that young children would not have their hands on this, that if a 17-year-old went to a dispensary they would not be served cannabis, just like if a 17-year-old went to a liquor store or bar they would not be served.”

Regardless of the extension, a vote is still due on the issue by the end of the legislative session on June 30.

Keeley said, “I don’t think it changes anything. The legislators still have to receive the report, read it. If they get a report in January versus the end of February, there’s still plenty of time to read the report and to have people make their decision,” she said. We’re making sure all our I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed, and we’re answering every question that is put forth about what would happen, what could happen and what may happen. So to take our time with it and have an extra 45 days, I’d rather do that than rush it and have people come back and say, ‘Hey we asked you for more time and you didn’t give it to us and you’re just trying to rush this and push this through.’ That’s not being a good legislator as far as I’m concerned.”