Delaware Governor John Carney announced that he will allow a pair of bills to legalize marijuana possession and establish a regulated adult-use market become law without his signature. This move has surprised many advocates who were concerned that Governor Carney would veto the proposals as he did in the last session.
Delaware, which is nicknamed “The First State,” will become the 22nd state in the U.S. to legalize recreational cannabis. Governor Carney, who previously declined to comment on his intentions for the marijuana measures from Rep. Ed Osienski (D), said that while his “views on this issue have not changed” and he still feels that legalization is “not a step forward,” he would not stand in the way of the reform any longer.
“I understand there are those who share my views who will be disappointed in my decision not to veto this legislation,” he said in a statement. “I came to this decision because I believe we’ve spent far too much time focused on this issue when Delawareans face more serious and pressing concerns every day. It’s time to move on.”
After the bills passed in the legislature, a spokesperson for the governor told Marijuana Moment that Carney “continues to have strong concerns about the unintended consequences of legalizing marijuana for recreational use in our state, especially about the impacts on our young people and highway safety.”
“I recognize that many legislators disagree—and I respect the legislative process,” he said. “I also do not believe prolonging debate on this issue best serves Delawareans.”
Governor Carney similarly talked about believing that it was “time to move on” from the conversation over marijuana and focus on other priorities during a town hall event on Tuesday at which several voters pressed him on the issue. In his latest statement on Friday, he echoed that point and reiterated his outstanding concerns, explaining why he’d let the bills take effect but symbolically without his signature.
“I remain concerned about the consequences of a recreational marijuana industry in our state,” the governor said. “I’m concerned especially about the potential effects on Delaware’s children, on the safety of our roadways, and on our poorest neighborhoods, where I believe a legal marijuana industry will have a disproportionately negative impact. Those concerns are why I could not put my signature to either House Bill 1 or House Bill 2.”
Despite his concerns, both the simple legalization legislation and the sales regulation measure cleared both chambers this round with more than enough support to override him. Osienski, the legislation’s sponsor, celebrated the news on Friday, stating that after five years of countless meetings, debates, negotiations, and conversations, he is grateful that Delaware has joined a growing number of states that have legalized and regulated adult recreational marijuana for personal use.
Here’s what the HB 1 legalization bill will accomplish:
- State statute would be revised to legalize the possession, use, sharing and purchasing of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults 21 and older.
- To avoid abuses of the “gifting” provision, the bill stipulates that “adult sharing” would not include giving away cannabis “contemporaneously with another reciprocal transaction between the same parties” such as an exchange of a non-marijuana item.
- Public consumption and growing cannabis would remain prohibited.
- People under 21 who engage in such activity would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $100 for a first offense. Police could use discretion and issue a citation in lieu of that fine, however.
Here’s an overview of the key provisions of the HB 2 regulatory bill:
- The legislation would provide a basic framework to create a regulated system of cannabis commerce for adults in the state.
- The Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement (DATE) would be responsible for regulating the market through a new Office of Marijuana Control Commissioner