Delaware Public Media

Delaware reacts to new federal policy on marijuana legalization in states

Jan 4, 2018

The U.S. Justice Department could make it harder for states like Delaware to operate cannabis programs.


The Trump administration Thursday reversed a previous hands off policy on legal marijuana. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called marijuana a gateway drug and has opposed legalization.

While federal law bans the use of marijuana, the Obama administration decided to de-prioritize enforcement after some states started legalizing recreational cannabis for adults in 2012.

But the new Trump administration policy gives federal prosecutors the go ahead to enforce marijuana bans in their districts regardless of state law.

Delaware and 28 other states allow medical marijuana use. Delaware lawmakers are also considering approving recreational pot.

Zoë Patchell of the Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network is calling for Delaware go ahead with legalization despite the change in federal policy.

“Considering this industry already exists in Delaware, that our state legislation still moves forward with legalizing a safe, taxed and well-regulated market for cannabis here in Delaware,” she said.

The Adult Cannabis Use Task Force, created by the Delaware state legislature and co-chaired by Rep. Helene Keeley calls this a states rights’ issue and expects pushback from states controlled by both Democrats and Republicans to this decision.

“I think you’ll end up seeing a lot of states end up suing the government," she said. "Just like, you know, Gov. Christie in New Jersey is suing the federal government over the ability for a state’s right to have sports betting.”

Delaware state lawmakers could vote this year to legalize recreational sales. The task force’s final report is due next month.

Recreational pot is currently legal in eight states including Colorado, California and Oregon. Republican Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner blasted the move, saying he would fight the order.