By / April 25, 2023

Delaware Becomes 22nd US State to Legalize Cannabis

Delaware has become the 22nd U.S. state to legalize cannabis. On Friday, Democratic Gov. John Carney said he would allow two cannabis legalization bills to go into effect without his signature, despite his continued concerns about the consequences of lifting prohibition in Delaware.

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Governor Carney Allows Delaware Legalization Bills to Proceed

“After years of advocacy, collaboration, and organizing, we are thrilled to see cannabis legalization become a reality in our state,” said Laura Sharer, executive director of the Delaware chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), in a press release. “This victory is the result of the tireless work of thousands of volunteers, dozens of legislators, and the support of a large majority of the Delaware community. Many advocated for this just cause and recognized the need for reasonable cannabis policy reform.”

Past Cannabis Policies in Delaware

Delaware has allowed medical cannabis since 2011. In 2015, lawmakers decriminalized possession of one ounce or less, making it a civil infraction punishable by a $100 fine.

Last year, Governor Carney vetoed legalization.

“My views on this issue have not changed,” Carney said Friday. “I made this decision because I think we’ve spent far too much time focusing on this issue when Delawareans are facing more serious and urgent problems every day. It’s time to move on.”

Details of the New Cannabis Legislation

H.B. 1, which passed the House 28-13 on March 7 and the Senate 16-4 on March 28, removes all penalties for possessing one ounce (28 grams) or less of cannabis by adults 21 years or older. It also allows adults to share up to one ounce “without compensation” but does not allow home cultivation.

Restrictions and Penalties Under New Delaware Laws

Consumption “in a place accessible to the public or in a moving vehicle” remains a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $200 and/or up to five days in jail. Driving “under the influence” of cannabis also remains illegal.

Regulation and Taxation of Cannabis Sales in Delaware

H.B. 2, which passed the House of Representatives 27-13 on March 9 and the Senate 15-5 on March 28, authorizes the appointment of a “cannabis commissioner” to license and regulate the commercial production and distribution of recreational cannabis. The commissioner will be required to begin accepting license applications 13 months after the law takes effect and begin issuing licenses one month later. Retail sales will be subject to a 15% tax, and municipalities are authorized to ban cannabis businesses within their jurisdiction.

Retail Sales Won’t Commence for at Least a Year

Retail sales will, therefore, not begin for more than a year. Since home cultivation is not allowed, cannabis consumers will have to continue to rely on the black market for the time being, although they will not be subject to civil or criminal penalties as long as they are 21 years of age or older and do not possess more than one ounce of cannabis.

Delaware is bordered by two states, New Jersey and Maryland, that have also legalized cannabis.

(Featured image by Ken Lund (CC BY-SA 2.0via Flickr)

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