"The support for cannabis legalization is at a record high with wildly diverse supporters and allies across the political spectrum, and even a recent Gallup poll showed that 68% of Americans support adult use legalization now," said Zoe Patchell of the Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network. "And, of course, the University of Delaware poll shows 61% of our citizens are in favor of this common sense measure. So there's definitely a wide range of support."
With the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act facing a decision in the U.S. Senate, Patchell said during WDEL's Rick Jensen Show that now is the perfect time for the First State to get onboard with the legalization movement.
"There's actually now over 30% of U.S. citizens who reside in one of the 15 states that have legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older, so there's an abundance of support."
The MORE Act seeks to decriminalize marijuana and remove it from the list of controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act, eliminating criminal penalties for those manufacturing, distributing, or possessing it.
Aside from just decriminalizing cannabis, legalizing and fostering its use in Delaware would be an economic boon, Patchell claimed.
"Cannabis legalization is a broad spectrum issue, meaning that it encompasses so many other issues within one single reform," she said. "Creating small business opportunities and jobs in a variety of both direct and ancillary fields; The fiscal responsibility aspects of it, reducing government spending on unnecessary enforcement costs; Removing the government from personal affairs that have nothing to do with public safety--and for conduct that is now legal in 15 states and our nation's capital; as well as the significant criminal justice reforms, including helping reduce mass incarceration."
Legalization would save taxpayers an estimated $13 million to $23 million from law enforcement costs "arresting people that choose cannabis as a safer alternative to alcohol," according to Patchell, and would conservatively generate a minimum of $9 million in revenue. In Delaware, there's already a strongly stablished base of consumers, she said.
"Right here in Delaware, we have 17% of Delaware adult that already admits to consuming cannabis, and that's a self-reporting survey by the National Institute of Substance Abuse and Mental Health," Patchell said. "And so there's a good chance that there's a lot of people that aren't admitting their cannabis [use]."
By not taking advantage of legalization now, Patchell claimed Delaware would lose monies to New Jersey, which has made the move to legalize marijuana, in an inverse relationship Delaware sees with neighboring states for tax-free purchases.
"Just like alcohol prohibitions, [consumers] are forced to the criminal market which has a plethora of issues associated with it, including creating crime and violence...but the fact of the matter is that cannabis consumers here in Delaware want the consumer safety protections that a legal, regulated market comes with," she said. "Best practices and standards to ensure that the product that consumers are using isn't laced with other drugs or harmful chemicals such as synthetic pesticides, and synthetic nutrients, and things like that. If Delaware does not follow suit and legalize cannabis in 2021, there will be likely a lot of consumers that flocked to Jersey, to make sure that they have a safe product."