The final version of a new bill to legalize recreational marijuanna arrives in the General Assembly.
State Rep. Ed Osienski (D-Brookside) and State Sen. Trey Paradee (D-Dover) formally introduced legislation Thursday that would allow the cultivation, sale and possession of marijuanna and provide small business license opportunities.
They say they aren’t looking to make legal marijuana a revenue engine - arguing they aim to shut down the illegal street market by offering competitive prices and equal access to people living in areas disproportionately affected by marijuanna prohibition. The tax rate on purchases would be 15%.
Only 30 retail licenses can be approved under the bill to avoid oversupply issues. Paradee says that will create an industry with good paying jobs.
"When you make it too easy to get licenses, you end up with drastic over supply problems, and then you end up creating a situation where no one can make money," Paradee said. "Business owners can’t make money, margins become so thin, and they can’t pay their workers decent wages. We don’t want to see that happen.” The bill does however, create Social Equity and Microbusiness applicant pools. The Social Equity pool would be limited to those most affected by marijuanna prohibition and the Microbusiness pool would focus on majority ownership held by residents. Both would have reduced fees. Social equity applicants would also get access to technical assistance and a revolving loan fund. Additionally, medical marijuana compassion centers will have to apply like everyone else if they wish to enter the market. Previous versions of the bill included the ability for compassion centers to sell recreational use marijunana until retail outlets ramped up.
Concerns over Gov. John Carney’s opposition linger. During the 2020 campaign, he said legalized marijuana was a “bad idea.” Neither sponsor has spoken with Gov. John Carney, who never explicitly said he would veto the bill.
“I feel that he is quite aware of what is happening in surrounding states, what is happening in the mid atlantic region," Oseinski said. "So I’m hopeful that he’ll realize what’s going on around us and either sign this or let it become law.”
Bill sponsors are confident it will pass and say Delaware shouldn’t be left behind as much of the Mid-Atlantic region moves to legalize.
If passed, the bill would also expunge all prior-related marijuanna offenses, but employer enforcement and laws regarding driving under the influence would not change. The bill also allows municpalities to bar the operation of marijuana facilities withing their own borders.
Similar to alcohol, you must be 21 to purchase marijuanna. And smoking marijuana in public will remain prohibited, along with growing it at home.
The bill is scheduled to get a hearing in the House Health & Human Development Committee on March 24.