Delaware Marijuana Control Act Would Legalize, Regulate Recreational Cannabis

DOVER – Noting that the current prohibition on marijuana consumption has failed to control the use or sale of cannabis, lawmakers introduced a measure Thursday to legalize recreational marijuana for adult users, a move intended to stamp out the black market.

House Bill 110, the Delaware Marijuana Control Act, would create a legal framework to regulate the production and sale of marijuana, establish a new industry that could create hundreds of good-paying jobs throughout the state, and provide a thorough, controlled and reasonable process to ensure fair access.

Chief House sponsor Rep. Ed Osienski said the measure also is aimed at shutting down the marijuana black market in Delaware by diverting demand from drug cartels and other illegal enterprises, and empowering law enforcement with the ability to ensure a safe, legal market for the cultivation, sale and use of marijuana in Delaware.

“There is a market for safe and legal marijuana in Delaware, which will have numerous benefits for our state,” said Rep. Osienski, D-Brookside. “We would be establishing a new industry that would create good-paying jobs for Delawareans while striking a blow against the marijuana black market.

“There’s a tremendous amount of public support for legal, recreational marijuana, and what we are proposing is a measured, reasonable approach that addresses many of the concerns people have raised while providing a framework that will allow for a successful industry.”

This legislation builds on Delaware’s past efforts, with Rep. Osienski noting that the state approved medical marijuana for patients with various illnesses in 2011 and decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2015.

Public support for recreational cannabis is clear. A University of Delaware poll last fall indicated that 61 percent of Delaware voters support legalizing marijuana. Support for legalization has also reached 65 percent nationally, according to a June 2018 Gallup poll.

HB 110 would allow adults 21 and older to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana from a licensed retail marijuana store. Under the bill, the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement (DATE) would absorb marijuana enforcement and create a separate, administrative Office of Marijuana Control Commissioner within the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

The legislation allows for up to 15 retail licenses to be issued within 16 months of the bill’s effective date. It also would establish a competitive licensing process through the Office of Marijuana Control Commissioner using a scoring system that rewards applicants for paying a living wage, providing employer-paid health insurance, providing a defined benefit pension plan, providing sick and paid leave to workers, hiring more full-time workers, focusing on diversity of workforce, and other factors.

Unlike its predecessor from the 149th General Assembly, the new bill would establish a marijuana control enforcement fee assessed at point of sale, set at 15% to compete with other states, and keep prices competitive with existing street values to snuff out the black market.

“My main focus is ensure this effort is carried out in a measured and responsible manner,” said Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, HB 110’s chief Senate sponsor. “We have had the opportunity to learn from other states, and this legislation will allow us to avoid the pitfalls that have occurred elsewhere. The purpose is not to generate a lot of revenue for the state, but rather to end the illegal, black market that has overwhelmed our court system and led to blood in our streets. The full legalization proposed by this measure also will create thousands of good-paying jobs and will allow law enforcement to focus on addressing violent crime and the opioid crisis.”

HB 110 also would allow medical marijuana compassion centers, which already are operating under many of the provisions established in this legislation, to sell small amounts of recreational marijuana. The Delaware Medical Marijuana Program director would determine the percentage of marijuana product stock that compassion centers must keep in reserve for medical marijuana patients.

The bill allows municipalities to prohibit the operation of marijuana facilities within their borders through local ordinances that are not in conflict with municipal regulations enacted under this law.

HB 110 would not change existing state law regarding driving under the influence of an illicit or recreational drug. It also would not allow individuals to grow their own plants. Public consumption of marijuana would still not be permitted.

Employer enforcement largely would not change. Employers would be permitted to drug test workers for marijuana to ensure any zero-tolerance policies are being followed. They also would be able to discipline workers for being under the influence at work, as well as prohibit the consumption of marijuana at work.

HB 110 also would allow for the expungement of prior marijuana-related offenses as long as the individual has no convictions for violent felonies.

HB 110 has been assigned to the House Revenue & Finance Committee.

###

AttachmentSize
HB 110 - Changes from Previous Version FINAL.pdf10.94 KB
Marijuana FAQs FINAL.pdf329.59 KB