Renewed effort to legalize recreational marijuana in Delaware

Groups advocating for the legalization of recreational marijuana in Delaware were crestfallen in May 2022 when Gov. John Carney exercised his veto power to quash a bill that would have given them what they wanted. Carney has vowed to block all legalization efforts, but he may no longer be able to. That is because lawmakers who support legalization did very well in the November election, and they may now have enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto.

Broad support

Recreational marijuana is already legal in 21 states including nearby New Jersey and Maryland, and most Delaware voters support legalization. Most Republicans want the drug to remain illegal, but a few are willing to change the criminal law because of the increased tax revenue that legalization would generate. Only a handful of Republican votes would be needed to override a Carney veto because the November election results gave Democrats healthy majorities in both the House and Senate.

Two new bills

One of the sponsors of the failed legislation has introduced two bills that could reveal whether or not legalization proponents have enough votes to override a Carney veto. One of the bills would make possessing marijuana legal for any person old enough to drink, and the second bill seeks to create a market of marijuana retailers that would collect a 15% tax on sales of the drug. The bills have cleared the committee stage, and both are expected to be voted on before the end of March.

Legalization seems inevitable

Recreational marijuana is now legal in almost half of the country, and efforts to legalize the drug in Delaware are likely to be successful sooner or later. Possessing small quantities of marijuana may only be punishable by a $100 civil fine in Delaware, but individuals found with the drug on their persons are often subjected to intrusive searches by police officers. Legalization would put an end to this dubious practice, and it would also provide a welcome boost to the state’s coffers.