Cannabis Regulation in Delaware: Breaking Down House Bills 1 & 2

In a historic move, the Delaware Senate passed House Bills 1 & 2 on Tuesday, March 28th, paving the way for cannabis to be legalized in the state. This is a significant victory for advocates of marijuana legalization and a sign that Delaware could soon join the dozen other states that have already legalized recreational use.

The bills would remove penalties for possessing up to one ounce of cannabis by adults over 21 years old and establish regulations for cultivation, sale, and possession; provide opportunities for small businesses to be licensed; and direct revenue from sales and licensing to justice reform efforts.

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Pros and Cons of House Bills 1 & 2

House Bills 1 & 2 provide several benefits for the state of Delaware. First, HB1 will remove penalties for possession of a personal use quantity of cannabis, except for those who are under 21 years old. This could help reduce incarceration rates and create an avenue for people with past cannabis-related convictions to have their records cleared.

HB2 establishes cultivation, sale, and possession regulations and provides opportunities for small businesses to be licensed. It also directs proceeds from sales and licensing to justice reform efforts, such as community reinvestment programs and grants to organizations that work on social justice issues.

One potential downside is that local governments would be allowed to ban dispensaries within their boundaries, which may make it difficult for cannabis businesses to find a place to operate.

Local Control Allowed Under the Bill

One key provision of House Bills 1 & 2 is that local governments can ban dispensaries within their boundaries. This allows cities, towns, and counties to decide whether they want cannabis businesses operating in their jurisdictions. This could benefit those wary of allowing recreational marijuana use within their community while also providing an opportunity for places that would like to welcome cannabis businesses with open arms.

This type of local control also allows communities to craft regulations and policies related to taxation, zoning, and other aspects of the industry that may differ from place to place. Overall, this provision shows a commitment on the part of Delaware lawmakers to respect local governments’ wishes regarding cannabis legalization.

It should be noted that local control in the past, not allowing a blanket policy throughout an entire state, has also led to limited access to the most vulnerable demographic of medical patients. It also sets up an uneven tax and regulation system within each state. This in our opinion is why many state cannabis programs will ultimately fail.

Our feeling on this is if any jurisdiction constituents have voted in favor of regulations (50.1% or more) then that locality should NOT be able to ban cannabis. In our opinion, this is individuals ultimately usurping the will of the people they are supposed to be serving.

Carney’s Previous Veto on Legalization, But Likely Chance of Passing This Time Around

Gov. John Carney vetoed a similar bill in 2018, citing public health and safety concerns. He argued that marijuana could be a gateway drug and have long-term negative effects on children, among other worries. Nevertheless, the two new House Bills have a good chance of becoming law this time because they take into account many of Gov. Carney’s previous objections into account.

For instance, HB1 includes provisions for personal use and possession of cannabis for those 21 years and older – something lacking from the 2018 bill – as well as penalties for those under 21 who possess cannabis products. Similarly, HB2 includes regulations for cultivation, sale, and possession; provides opportunities for small businesses to be licensed; and directs proceeds from sales and licensing to justice reform efforts such as community reinvestment programs.

This could convince Gov. Carney that these bills represent a reasonable approach to cannabis legalization. But, ultimately, only time will tell if he signs them into law or not.

Enjoyed that first hit? Come chill with us every week at the Friday Sesh for a freshly packed bowl of the week’s best cannabis news!

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