Senate members approved legislation today legalizing marijuana possession and regulating the adult-use market.
By a vote of 16 to 4, Senate lawmakers passed HB 1, which removes criminal and civil penalties for the possession of personal use quantities of cannabis flower and other products, including marijuana paraphernalia, for those age 21 or older. (The use of cannabis in public remains penalized under the measure, and underage possession of cannabis remains subject to civil fines.)
Lawmakers additionally passed HB 2, complimentary legislation that licenses and regulates marijuana production and retail sales. Senators approved the measure 15 to 5.
“Delaware NORML commends the Senate for the swift passage of HB1 and HB2,” said Laura Sharer, Executive Director of Delaware NORML. “The advancement of these measures shows the citizens of Delaware that legislators are up to the task of implementing cannabis policy that is focused on advancing public health and social justice.”
NORML’s State Policy Manager Jax James added. “The progress today is a result of years of grassroots activism. Further, it is a reflection of lawmakers evolving on this issue and being responsive to the will of the electorate, which overwhelmingly favor ending the failed policy of cannabis criminalization in The First State.”
Both HB 1 and HB 2 previously passed the House by a two-thirds supermajority. They now await action from Democratic Gov. John Carney, who has previously expressed opposition to further liberalizing adult-use cannabis laws.
Last year, Gov. Carney vetoed legislation similar to HB 1, stating, “I do not believe that promoting or expanding the use of recreational marijuana is in the best interests of the state of Delaware.”
Delaware NORML’s Sharer said that it is time for the Governor to change his position to reflect majority public and political support. “With immense public support and the support of the majority of our full General Assembly, the message to Governor Carney is clear: Legalize cannabis and end the criminalization of cannabis.”
She added: “Ending the criminalization of cannabis is about more than just ending fines and criminal penalties. The unjustifiable human cost of cannabis prohibition has created generational damages for Delawareans for decades.”
Under state law, a bill can become law absent the Governor taking any action.
Polling from the University of Delaware and others have consistently shown over the past decade that a majority of residents favor legalization.
Additional information is available from Delaware NORML.