Probation bill for marijuana prompts call for Delaware legalization

Marijuana plants/WDEL File

After years of opposition and advocacy, a bill is coming forward to legalize marijuana in the First State.

Unlike the eight states and D.C. where marijuana was legalized by voter initiative, Delaware law does not allow for a referendum. This is why State Senator Margaret Rose-Henry is putting the final touches on a bill that, if passed, would tax and regulate marijuana in Delaware.

Law enforcement statewide appear to be showing strong preliminary support for the legislation, "Law enforcement wants this bill. I'm pleased to tell you that there are police officers who think this is a good thing that we are going to reduce their having to arrest people who don't need to be arrested," said Rose-Henry.

Rose-Henry and other lawmakers have also been in talks with Colorado, a state that has generate hundreds of millions of dollars since legalizing marijuana in 2012, "It's going to be a learning process, and we've already learned a lot from Colorado and the corrections that they've made," said Rose-Henry. "One of the things I'd like to do is take a trip there, we've talked to them on the phone."

Passing the bill could prove to be very difficult. On numerous occasions, as far back as the campaign trail, Governor John Carney expressed how the State needs more time to learn from the eight states across the country who've already legalized marijuana, and to develop it's medical marijuana program before it takes that next step.

Rose-Henry explained what she and other supportive lawmakers intend to do to ensure the legislation doesn't end up vetoed, "We're going to make sure we put the safeguards in, work with state and local law enforcement, to ensure that our people are protected," said Rose-Henry. "I think our governor is being cautious. We had the same thing with the previous governor when I did medical marijuana it takes a while because of the federal laws, and I think that's his concern."

Cannabis Bureau of Delaware Co-Chair Zoe Patchell said if Carney veto's the bill, it would go against the majority of Delawareans, who are in support of it.

"Delaware cannot afford to wait on this issue, and 61% of Delawareans support taxing and regulating cannabis like alcohol for adults 21 and older," said Patchell. "So to ignore the super majority in the state, I think, would not be a good idea."

The Cannabis Bureau of Delaware has lobbied and advocated to legalize marijuana in Delaware since 2014. The Bureau argues that legalization would create economic development, employment opportunity, state revenue, and redirect resources to help solve Delaware's current budget deficit. Annually, over 100,000 Delawareans purchase marijuana illegally, resulting in millions of dollars in untaxed revenue.