A new legislative session has begun in Delaware, and lawmakers are poised to try another legalization bill after a narrow defeat in 2018. There are hopes that legalization bills may pass in several other states as well (including a bordering state, New Jersey), and a federal legalization bill has also been introduced.
WHYY reports that state Sen. Charles “Trey” Paradee (D-Dover) has announced his support of a new bill, not yet drafted, that would legalize marijuana in the state. He intends to consider the experiences of legal states and the input of local stakeholders in drafting the new bill. Referring to the defeat of the previous year’s bill, he remarked to WHYY:
We have another year’s worth of information from other states to look at. There are states that have done things well and some states that have had some problems. We’re going to take the next several weeks and make sure everyone who has an opinion or idea has an opportunity to talk about it, and hopefully we can put together something we can get passed and would be good for Delaware.
As in many other parts of the country, popular support for legalization in Delaware is in a solid majority. A poll from 2016 put support for legalization at 61%, with a Republican candidate for governor in support. Regarding popular support, Paradee remarked: “I believe if this was put up for a public referendum, if we had that in Delaware, I think this would have passed four or five years ago. The overwhelming number of people want it.” In 2018, several of the lawmakers who voted against or abstained from voting on the legalization bill, contributing to its failure, have not returned to office. Many lawmakers retired in 2018, with the result that Delaware now has a significant contingent of first-term legislators. As with many other elections across the country in 2018, the Delaware legislature gained Democrats and has moved to the left politically. Delaware has a Democratic House, Senate, and governor, as it did in 2018 when that year’s legalization bill failed by four votes in the House.
WHYY also reports that in 2018, the vote was 20 Democrats in favor of legalization, with five abstaining. Of the 16 Republicans, all but one voted no. Two of the Republicans who voted no did not return to office in 2019. The Democratic governor was also on record as opposing legalization. Proponents of legalization cited the efforts of well-funded opposition groups as a reason for the bill’s defeat, despite grass-roots support.
Although Governor John Carney has expressed doubts about recreational use legalization, he did sign a medical bill in 2017, saying: “This is a common sense, and compassionate amendment to Delaware’s medical marijuana law that will expand access to treatment for Delaware veterans and others who live every day with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.” Delaware began its medical program in 2011.
Delaware Online quotes one opponent of legalization, House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach), as saying that adult use legalization “probably stands a better chance than it did before” and that “It will be here eventually. I don’t know whether it’s this year, next year or whenever.” The new bill could win support with compromise measures against intoxicated driving and fewer dispensaries.
In Delaware as in several other states and perhaps the entire country, 2019 could be the year of adult use legalization.
What do you think? Will Delaware legalize in 2019? What other states may do so as well?