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Delaware Headlines

Marijuana legalization bills are released from House committees

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Delaware Public Media
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A renewed effort to legalize marijuana by separating proposed legislation takes its first step in the House - with two new bills released from committee.

Legislation to legalize possession of one ounce or less of marijuana clears the House Health and Human Development Committee

The bill’s sponsor Ed Osienski explains what would be legal and remain illegal under the measure.

"Legalizes the personal possession of an ounce or less, but it still is illegal to be under 21 in possession, possessing over an ounce, and it's still illegal to drive impaired," said Osienski.

He notes it would also remain illegal to smoke in public.

The legislation was released in a party line vote with Democrats supporting, and Republicans either voting no or not voting.

There was controversy as a vote to release was moved and seconded prior to public comment. GOP State Rep. Ruth Briggs King argued public comment was needed.

Committee Chair David Bentz - after consulting House counsel - moved on without public comment -prompting most GOP members to walk out with one more bill on the agenda.

Meanwhile, a second bill on regulating and taxing legal marijuana cleared the House Revenue and Finance Committee.

The Delaware Marijuana Control Act would create 30 retail licenses, 30 manufacturing licenses, 60 cultivation licenses and 5 testing licenses to be issued within 16 months of the bill’s effective date.

The issuing of licenses will be a competitive process.

The legislation would also create a 15% marijuana control enforcement tax on retail marijuana with 7% of the revenue going to the Justice Reinvestment Fund.

The Department of Justice would manage that fund and use it for projects to improve quality of life for communities impacted by the prohibition of marijuana and war on drugs era policies.

State Rep. Paul Baumbach voted to release the bill from committee. He explains how this bill is different from the recent failed legalization effort.

"This is a different Bill than what we looked at last month. This says when marijuana is legal in Delaware do we want it taxed and regulated? I think that everyone in my world and I know this is not the real world. I think everyone would want to have it taxed and regulated," said Baumbach.

Enforcement would be handled by a new Marijuana Control Commissioner in the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement.

GOP Rep. Mike Ramone was among those not voting to release this legislation. He thinks there’s too much involvement from the government.

"I would like to see a different format of that maybe even a digestion from process that is already there whether it's through the smoke shops or the liquor stores or even a blend. I just think we're doing an awful lot,” said Ramone. “I also do not like the fact of taxing them. I think that keeps the black market more active."

This legislation needs a three-fifths majority to pass.