Delaware has become the 22nd U.S. state to legalize the possession and sale of recreational marijuana, despite the Governor's opposition.
The Governor of Delaware, John Carney (Democrat), announced on April 21 he will allow recreational marijuana legalization and sales amid concern, making Delaware the 22nd to legalize adult-use marijuana.
Delaware will enact two bills without Governor's signature to remove all state-level civil and criminal penalties for marijuana possession and create a regulated industry for recreational marijuana sales.
Despite supporting the laws on medical marijuana and decriminalization, Gov. Carney doesn't consider the legalization of recreational marijuana to be a step forward.
"I want to be clear that my views on this issue have not changed. And I understand there are those who share my views who will be disappointed in my decision not to veto this legislation. I decided because I believe we've spent far too much time focused on this issue, when Delawareans face more serious and pressing concerns every day. It's time to move on," he said in a press statement.
One of the main concerns of Gov. Carney regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana is the potential impact of a regulated industry for recreational marijuana in Delaware.
"I'm concerned especially about the potential effects on Delaware's children, on the safety of our roadways, and on our poorest neighborhoods, where I believe a legal marijuana industry will have a disproportionately negative impact," he said.
In May 2022, Governor Carney vetoed a bill that sought to legalize recreational marijuana use. However, in January, two other bills were introduced to legalize marijuana and regulate its sale, which the Governor will allow to pass without his signature in the coming days.
The legal framework of Delaware's recreational marijuana legalization consists of two bills.
House Bill 1 allows individuals who are 21 years old or above to possess, use, purchase, and share marijuana, but with a limit of one ounce. However, sharing marijuana as a gift with other items in exchange is not allowed to prevent misuse. Growing marijuana and consuming it in public will still be forbidden. Those under 21 who break this law may be fined up to $100 for their first offense, but police have the option to issue a citation instead of a fine.
House Bill 2 establishes a regulated system of adult-use marijuana market regulated by the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement and overseen by the market through a new Office of Marijuana Control Commissioner.
The agency could approve up to 30 marijuana retail licenses, 30 manufacturing licenses, 60 cultivation licenses, and five testing licenses in the first 16 months.
The legislation allocates 7% of the tax revenue collected to the Justice Reinvestment Fund. The Department of Justice will oversee this fund, which will finance projects to enhance the quality of life in communities that have been disproportionately affected by the policies that prohibit marijuana.
The fund would also be used to develop technology to assist with the restoration of civil rights and the expungement of criminal records, as the law does not provide automatic expungements.
The legislation will introduce social equity and microbusiness licenses for Delaware residents. However, municipalities will have the option to prohibit marijuana businesses from operating through the enactment of an ordinance.
Adult-use marijuana sales would be subject to 15% of the retail sales price of the marijuana product.
While personal use became legal on Sunday, April 23, the implementation of the sale of marijuana will take time and effort.
Delaware joins a growing number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana in recent years.
This milestone has been the result of extensive discussions, negotiations, and advocacy on how best to regulate adult-use marijuana in the state.
The legalization of marijuana in Delaware reflects the strong support of Delaware voters for marijuana legalization over the years.
One of the latest polls conducted in October 2022 found 60% of registered voters believe that marijuana use should be legal, while 30% are opposed, and 10% are undecided, as reported by Marijuana Moment.