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Delaware governor vetoes marijuana legalization

Gov. John Carney has vetoed a bill that would have legalized cannabis for all adults 21 and older in Delaware.

The legislation, House Bill 371, was passed by both the state House and Senate earlier this month. The bill has been sitting on Carney’s desk awaiting his signature, which would have made Delaware the nation’s 19th legal state.

Instead, Carney chose to reject the bill earlier this morning.

The governor’s action sets up a showdown with the legislature, which would need a 3/5ths vote to override Carney’s veto. Carney is a Democrat, and both houses of the legislature are majority Democrat.

The legislature may well have the votes to do it—which would mark the first successful veto override in Delaware since 1977.

The legalization bill, HB 371, passed both the state House and Senate by veto-proof votes: 26-14 in the House and 13-7 in the Senate. Twenty-five votes are be required in the House to override a veto, and 13 are required in the Senate. To override the governor’s veto, legislators would need to recast their ballots and Carney would need to convince two House members or one state Senator to switch their votes.

Delaware legislators have until June 30, when the legislative session ends, to override the governor’s veto.

Gov. Carney has ‘questions’ about legalization

Carney released this statement earlier this morning:

“I recognize the positive effect marijuana can have for people with certain health conditions, and for that reason, I continue to support the medical marijuana industry in Delaware. I supported decriminalization of marijuana because I agree that individuals should not be imprisoned solely for the possession and private use of a small amount of marijuana — and today, thanks to Delaware’s decriminalization law, they are not. That said, I do not believe that promoting or expanding the use of recreational marijuana is in the best interests of the state of Delaware, especially our young people. Questions about the long-term health and economic impacts of recreational marijuana use, as well as serious law enforcement concerns, remain unresolved.”

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Disingenuous or misinformed?

The governor’s comments included a number of sweeping negative assumptions that have been disproven by the 18 states that have already legalized.

Cannabis has been legal for all adults in Colorado and Washington for nearly a decade. Legalization with appropriate regulation has proven to be an enormous economic plus for those states—as well as more recent adult-use states—with the creation of 428,000 full-time jobs in farming, processing, sales, and ancillary industries.

In legal states, all licensed stores check IDs at the door. In non-legal states, unlicensed sellers do not check IDs, which allows the flourishing of sales to minors.

Decriminalization sounds like a positive step in theory, but it leaves responsible adult consumers without a legal option to obtain cannabis—which aids the illegal sellers offering untested products to anyone regardless of age.

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Consumers and tax revenue headed to New Jersey

Rep. Ed Osienski, an advocate of legalization, issued his own statement on Tuesday’s veto:

“Unfortunately, the governor has chosen to ignore the will of residents and a bipartisan super-majority of the General Assembly by vetoing HB 371. I’m deeply disappointed in his decision, especially since he could have allowed the bill to become law without his signature, which would have preserved both his personal opposition and the will of the residents and legislators. I will review what options are available and decide on any next steps at a later time.

“Vetoing HB 371 will not stop people from obtaining and consuming marijuana. It simply means they could face civil penalties for possession. We have to look no further than New Jersey to see how a new industry can create jobs and generate revenue – sales reached nearly $2 million on its first day. Until we establish a similar market in Delaware, people will continue to obtain marijuana illegally here through the illicit market or send tax revenue across the Delaware Memorial Bridge to New Jersey.”

Zoë Patchell, executive director of the Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network, said after the vote: “A strong majority of Delaware voters support cannabis legalization and want to see the state stop wasting resources on punishing individuals for activities that are legal in 18 other states. We call on the legislature to take immediate action to override this veto.”

Bruce Barcott's Bio Image
Bruce Barcott

Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.

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