Issue 552 - January 20, 2023

In This Issue:
  • Marijuana Supporters Renew Debate with New Bill
  • VIDEO: House & Senate Republican Leaders React to the State of the State Address

Marijuana Supporters Renew

Debate with New Bill

Recreational marijuana supporters on Friday (1/20) introduced new legislation seeking to eliminate the civil penalty for adults possessing or using up to one ounce of the controlled substance.

The move continues a dramatic narrative from last year.

After a bill seeking to make recreational marijuana legal in Delaware was seemingly killed in the House of Representatives last spring, backers introduced two new measures to accomplish the same goal. The first was House Bill 371, which sought to eliminate all penalties for possessing 1 ounce or less of marijuana by those 21 years of age or older. 

The Delaware Code was changed seven years ago to decriminalize the possession of "personal use" amounts of marijuana. However, a civil penalty of $100 can still be levied under current law. HB 371 would have eliminated this fine. 

The bill cleared the General Assembly on the strength of overwhelming Democratic support in both chambers, but Governor John Carney vetoed the measure in late May, stating:

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.

An attempt to override the veto in the House failed.

The bill filed today (House Bill 1) is similar to its predecessor. It would refine the definition of "personal use quantity" to mean "1 ounce or less of marijuana in the form of leaf marijuana, 12 grams or less of concentrated cannabis, or cannabis products containing 750 milligrams or less of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol." 

This measure would also remove all penalties for the adult use, possession, and sharing of small quantities of marijuana (as previously defined).  Additionally, it would eliminate any fines for possessing or using "marijuana accessories" -- items intended primarily for use with marijuana.

Should the bill become law, it would not "legalize" marijuana since all of the following activities would remain illicit:

  • The use of marijuana by anyone under the age of 21.
  • The sale of marijuana in any form (not including legal, medical sales).
  • The sale of another item in which marijuana was being "gifted" to the purchaser as part of the transaction.
  • Using marijuana as barter.
  • The use of marijuana by anyone in a public venue.
  • The use of marijuana while operating or riding in a motor vehicle.
  • Growing marijuana.
  • The possession of more than one ounce of marijuana.

Twenty-nine of the General Assembly's 41 Democratic lawmakers have signed the bill as prime sponsors or co-sponsors. No House or Senate Republicans have thus far sponsored the measure. The legislation has been assigned to the House Health & Human Development Committee for further consideration.


House & Senate Republican Leaders React to the State of the State Address

Governor John Carney delivered his 2023 State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly on Thursday.

The governor touted his administration's successes in securing economic development projects around the state. Those accomplishments include the construction of the 190-acre WuXi STA pharmaceutical manufacturing campus in Middletown and the redevelopment of the blighted Nylon Capital Shopping Center in Seaford.

The governor also teased initiatives for the upcoming fiscal year, including increased funding for affordable housing, early childhood education, and the Wilmington Learning Collaborative. Further details on those proposals, and others, will be unveiled when the governor presents his proposed FY 2024 operating and capital budgets on Thursday (1/26).

House and Senate Republican leaders reflected on the governor's remarks following the address. Here are a few highlights from those observations:

Senate Republican Leader Gerald Hocker:

  • "One of the big things that I was looking for as a businessperson was what is he going to do for...existing business. How we're going to help those existing businesses grow their business so they can hire. We did hear about bringing industry and businesses into the state, but there's an awful lot of small businesses that are now hurting after the pandemic, and I want to see some substance on what we're going to do to help them." 

  • "Right now, we have a huge death rate with our drugs and fentanyl in the State of Delaware. And they're using more Narcan than ever before. What would that death rate be -- it was over 500 individuals the last two years in a row -- ...without that?" 

House Republican Leader Mike Ramone:

  • "The governor started off his entire statement by saying he wants us all to work together. There are 62 people, very good leaders, representing the State of Delaware, and I'm looking forward to having a year in which we really are working together because I think we need to hold the governor to that statement."

Senate Republican Whip Brian Pettyjohn:

  • "The first thing that stood out to me today was the governor's call for us to work together. And that's easier said than done. We have some very Progressive movements that are within the General Assembly right now in the House and the Senate, and I think that those movements are ones that don't necessarily reflect the values and what most Delaware areas want. As the governor said, most Delawareans want us to work together to get things done in this building and not for one side to just ramrod their policies through when it's not in the best interest of everybody in Delaware."

  • "When it comes to his (the governor's) statement increasing state investments for early childhood education, I completely agree with that. Studies have shown that investment in early childhood education pays dividends down the road."

  • "Back at the end of last year, I was in Lewisville, Texas, touring the Erickson facility. They make some of the high-tech units for the 5G cell phone towers. And they were telling the group that was assembled there, from groundbreaking to production, on a 300,000 square foot facility, a $100 million investment with 400 plus employees, [took just] 160 days. My jaw dropped when I heard that. You could not get that done in Delaware in that amount of time. We need to look at the regulatory process. We're looking at Ready in Six, [but] Ready in Six isn't going to cut it anymore. We need to be building in six [months]. We're looking at ... other states that have honed down the regulatory process. They've made significant progress in speeding things up so that when a business wants to come to their state, to their county, to their city, we're not just talking about shovel-ready; we're talking about a shovel that's already in the ground before the ink is dry. That's one of the things that we need to do in Delaware as well to really truly grow on the economy."

House Republican Whip Lyndon Yearick:

  • "You know the governor mentioned how we're expected to be good stewards of your resources. ...I did not hear the governor mention anything about a personal income tax cut. As Senator Hocker mentioned, we're looking to make the biggest investment back into you, the Delawarean. Who knows better how to spend the money that you've given to Delaware but you, the person who we've collected it from? That's the best economic driver."

  • "We spend over $1.6 billion of your money in regard to our public education system, and that number continues to increase. ...We've always advocated for you, at the local level, to have more flexibility with how those dollars are spent. ...We're only one of five or six states left out of 50 that use...a unit count system. It's complicated and doesn't make any sense. [Let's] give that flexibility back to the districts who can compete in order to attract the best quality teachers."

  • "Perhaps [we need to] look at ways for individuals that are coming from disadvantaged homes to have flexibility where they can attend school -- whether it's looking at easier school choice, an easier process for them to access a different public school, [or] a different charter school."

  • "The governor did mention...that some of our shootings have dropped, but tragically that's from an all-time high. ...We need to hold individuals accountable in regard to gun violence. [If] you commit a crime with a gun, you need to be held accountable, and far too many of those charges are getting dropped. We advocate for enhanced sentencing for those individuals. Why? To keep our neighborhoods safe and secure, so you feel comfortable whether you're in Wilmington, Dover, or Seaford."