Delaware Senate Passes Pared Down Adult-Use Cannabis Bill

Delaware lawmakers approved a bill to legalize cannabis possession but stopped short of establishing regulated sales; the bill now goes to Gov. John Carney (D), who remains opposed to legalization and has not yet revealed whether he will sign.

Full story after the jump.

The Delaware Senate last week voted 13-6 in favor of a bill to legalize cannabis possession by adults, moving it to Gov. John Carney (D), WDEL reports. It marks the fifth time in state history and the second time this year Delaware lawmakers have considered a cannabis legalization bill.

The measure, which was pared down from a full tax-and-regulate proposal, removes all penalties for possession of up to an ounce of cannabis by adults 21-and-older.

State Sen. Trey Paradee (D), the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate, called its passage “long overdue.”

“The majority of Delawareans want this, and it’s the right thing to do.” – Paradee to WDEL

Republican State Sen. Colin Bonini argued that the bill would create more criminals in the state, arguing that it should be renamed “the Encourage Illegal Behavior Act” because there would still be no legal way to purchase cannabis.

“And even if it’s just somebody you know, who happens to sell a little weed on the side, you know what that guy is? He’s a drug dealer,” Bonini said during the debate. “And until we get a regulatory environment that the state oversees, similar to medical marijuana, what are we doing? And I just – this is the cart before the horse.”

A bill to regulate cultivation and sales passed the House Appropriations Committee last Tuesday but requires a three-fifths majority to pass each chamber.

The bill passed by the Senate doesn’t affect private employers’ potential drug testing in adherence with zero-tolerance policies or change driving under the influence laws, the report says.

Following the vote, Carney’s spokeswoman Emily David told the Insurance Journal that the governor will “review the bill” but that his opposition to broad cannabis legalization “hasn’t changed.” Neither he nor members of his office have indicated whether he will sign the bill.

Under current Delaware law, possession of an ounce or less of cannabis by anyone 21-and-older carries a $100 civil penalty. Under the bill, possession of non-medical cannabis by anyone under 21 would still result in a civil penalty, while possession of more than one ounce and public consumption would remain misdemeanors. The bill also allows adults to “transfer,” but not sell for payment or other consideration, an ounce or less to another adult.

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