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Delaware lawmakers eye New Jersey as they seek to pass recreational pot bill next year

Delaware Public Media

Some Delaware lawmakers say they’ll try again to legalize recreational pot next year, despite concerns New Jersey may corner the regional market before then.

A bill allowing adult recreational sales in the Garden State passed out of committees in both chambers this week. The New Jersey legislature could vote to legalize purchases of marijuana by adults as early as next month.

But First State legislators like Dover area State Rep. Sean Lynn say that doesn’t mean Delaware shouldn’t move on similar legislation.

“Have we lost out by not keeping up with our surrounding states," he said. "I don’t think that we necessarily have. But I think that’s probably the smaller price in relation to the criminal justice component.”

Lynn said New Jersey may get a revenue edge if it becomes the first in the region to allow recreational sales. But he argues there’s clear criminal justice inequities Delaware can address by pursuing legalization.

“Individuals who have been in possession of an ounce or more of marijuana and criminally prosecuted while we have waffled on legalization," he said. "I think that’s the higher price we have paid.”

Lynn said it’s unfair that lawmakers decriminalized possession of an ounce or less of pot for adults while keeping it illegal for youth to possess the same amount.

It’s not clear who will lead legalization efforts in January. Because it’s a revenue bill, it must start in the House and needs support from two-thirds of its members to advance to the Senate.

The House got closer than ever before to passing legalization in June. But former State Rep. Helene Keeley’s bill was short four votes needed to send it on to the Senate for consideration.

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