Marijuana New Jersey

FILE - In this Friday, March 22, 2019, file photo, a marijuana plant is seen at Compassionate Care Foundation's medical marijuana dispensary in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. On Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, New Jersey lawmakers advanced legislation to establish a new recreational marijuana marketplace, which voters overwhelmingly approved on the ballot earlier in the month, but differed on key details. 

Delaware's state legislature is taking another look at legalizing marijuana this session, and an advocacy group said there are strong economic benefits to taking this step.

Karen O'Keefe, Director of State Policies with the Marijuana Policy Project, pointed to nine states that have legalized cannabis, and brought in revenue that adjusted for Delaware would mean at least $7.9 million into the state's coffers.

"States are bringing in tens-to-hundreds of millions of dollars every year in cannabis taxes and fees. The regulatory costs pale in comparison to what is being brought in."

Washington, which leads the nine states with a 37% retail plus a 6.5% sales tax on marijuana, brought in $616.1 million [$78.9 million adjusted to Delaware] in 2020.

"In Washington, the tax rate is so high, and sales have been going for so long, that they brought in more cannabis taxes than liquor and alcohol taxes total last year, even though far few people are cannabis consumers than alcohol consumers."

O'Keefe added that Washington having raised $2.4 billion in six-and-a-half years and Colorado's $1.4 billion in seven years are having impacts to their state's economies.

"These aren't just numbers, these are real investments in the community's health that have improved lives. Washington [state] used $188 million of its revenue last year from cannabis on its basic health plan trust fund, which is for health insurance for residents who are otherwise uninsured. Colorado has used much of its funding for schools, and Illinois is devoting 25% of its revenue to reinvest in communities that are hardest hit by the war on drugs."

The other states analyzed besides Washington and Colorado are Oregon, Alaska, Nevada, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Illinois.

Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness put out a study in January that said Delaware could create a $215 million industry, create 1,400 jobs, and bring in $40 million in revenue, simply by legalizing like neighboring states are considering.

She spoke during Thursday's Facebook Live hosted by Delaware CAN, the same day new legislation to legalize recreational marijuana was introduced.

"Choosing to allow the sale of marijuana on the black market and go unregulated means that Delaware will be left behind. Other states are realizing this important economic, public health, and social equity advantage that legalization provides."

O'Keefe said the Marijuana Policy Project has not seen the societal effects that have been argued by some lobbying groups against legalization.

"The supposed cost of legalization that we've heard, the major society effects, are just not borne out by the data. It's based on cherry-picking and misrepresentation by-and-large. In reality, in Colorado, there is a lower rate of teen use -- very slightly lower, but lower -- now than pre-legalization. College dropouts was the other claim. The dropout rate is lower than it was pre-legalization, and the graduation rate is higher. All of these claims that would lead to money, were bogus."

Adam Windett, Co-Founder of Delaware CAN, said he believes Delaware could ultimately be a net exporter of marijuana. 

"We have close proximity to large population centers on the east coast, access to interstate highways and ports, and agricultural heritage and expertise. I think we're second in the nation in agricultural output per acre."

HB 150 has been assigned to the House Health & Human Development Committee, and it will be heard in committee on March 24, 2021.