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Marijuana regulation bill fails in Delaware House

Delaware Public Media

A bill establishing a structure for regulating the production and sale of marijuana failed in the State House Thursday.

State Rep. Edward Osienski’s (D-Newark) bill would have imposed a 15% tax on marijuana sales and created a limited number of licenses for sale, cultivation and testing.

Osienski underscored he also sought to address the disproportionate impacts of criminalizing marijuana on Black Delawareans.

“The past two years, we have listened to concerns from communities that for decades have been negatively impacted by the prohibition on marijuana," he said.

But because the bill involves state revenues, it required a two-thirds majority vote to pass. It failed with 23 votes in favor and 15 against. Zoe Patchell, the Executive Director of Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network, says the loss was an unexpected result of a COVID outbreak among lawmakers.

"Unfortunately, one of our co-sponsors was one of them and we ended up one vote short," she said, referring to State Rep. John Mitchell.

Osienski changed his vote to “no,” which gives him three legislative days to rescind the roll call vote and bring the bill forward for reconsideration before the end of this year’s legislative session. Patchell says she thinks the bill could pass if its co-sponsor, Rep. Larry Mitchell, recovers from his illness in time for a second floor vote.

A bill legalizing the possession of small quantities of marijuana recently passed with no regulations for sale or cultivation, leaving Delawareans to either buy marijuana in New Jersey or from the illicit market.

When the simple legalization bill passed the state Senate last week, its senate sponsor, Sen. Trey Paradee (D-Dover), said he would withdraw his support if the companion bill to regulate marijuana sales did not pass.

“If we pass this bill and not the other one, I will personally ask the governor to veto this bill."

That bill now goes to Gov. John Carney, who has opposed legalizing marijuana.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.