Democratic lawmakers in Delaware last week performed what has become an annual legislative ritual by introducing measures that would legalize recreational marijuana.
And, as per recent tradition, their biggest obstacle remains the most senior member of their own state party.
The Delaware News Journal reports that members of the state House of Representatives introduced a pair of bills on Friday “to legalize and create a recreational marijuana industry in Delaware, setting up a likely fight within the Democratic Party this legislative session.”
The anticipated intra-party feud centers around Democratic Gov. John Carney, who has long been opposed to marijuana legalization and has stymied efforts by Democrats in the legislature to end the prohibition on pot.
Last year, Carney vetoed a bill that would have legalized recreational pot in the state.
Despite holding a majority in each chamber of the state General Assembly, Democratic lawmakers were unable to override Carney’s veto.
“[The legalization bill] would, among other things, remove all penalties for possession by a person 21 years of age or older of one ounce or less of marijuana and ensure that there are no criminal or civil penalties for transfers without remuneration of one ounce or less of marijuana between persons who are 21 years of age or older,” Carney said in a statement following his veto.
“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,” he continued. “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,” Carney added. “Questions about the long-term health and economic impacts of recreational marijuana use, as well as serious law enforcement concerns, remain unresolved.”
Democrats who are backing the two bills introduced in the state House last week are hopeful that Carney will eventually come around.
“My hope is that with continued open dialogue with the governor’s office, that will help alleviate a veto,” Democratic state House Rep. Ed Osienski, one of the sponsors of the legislation, told the Delaware News Journal. “I have more support from my members … for a veto override, but I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.”
According to the outlet, a “Carney spokeswoman said Friday that the governor’s views on marijuana have not changed.”
According to the Delaware News Journal, the bill dedicated to removing all penalties for possession would “require a simple majority or 21 votes.”
The other bill “would create a framework to regulate the growth, sale and possession of weed,” essentially treating pot like alcohol, and would require “a three-fifths vote because it deals with revenue and taxation,” the Delaware News Journal reports.
The measures also include social equity provisions aimed at enhancing opportunities in the new marijuana industry to individuals from communities who have been historically targeted by anti-drug policies.
The News Journal has more details on the two proposals:
“Delawareans would buy marijuana from a licensed retail marijuana store. The bill would allow for up to 30 retail licenses to be distributed within 16 months of the legislation going into effect. The process will be competitive, with prospective retailers being rewarded for providing good salaries and benefits and hiring a diverse workforce.”