With less than a week until Delaware’s legislative session wraps up for the year, a bill to fully legalize marijuana could still pass.
The bill, H.B. 110, would permit adults over 21 to use, transport and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, as well as five grams of concentrates, for personal use. It wouldn’t allow individuals to grow their own plants, but it would establish a recreational marijuana retail system statewide.
A majority of Delaware voters (61 percent, according to a 2016 University of Delaware poll) support marijuana legalization, but the prospect of the bill’s passage remains uncertain. As currently written, 25 out of 41 representatives would have to approve the legislation—and insiders in the state capitol in Dover tell Marijuana Moment they’re not sure the votes are there.
But while many observers had crossed Delaware off the list of states that could legalize marijuana in 2018 weeks ago, Rep. Helene Keeley (D), the chief sponsor of the bill, added a comprehensive amendment last week that advocates believe gives the proposal a shot to pass before the legislative deadline.
The revised bill would set aside 20 percent of tax revenue collected from retail marijuana sales to fund substance abuse treatment programs, invest in seed-to-sale tracking and bar product packaging that might appeal to children. It would also remove three criminal penalties, which lowered the vote threshold to 60 percent because state law requires a two-thirds supermajority to pass any bill that includes criminal penalties.
The reason that a supermajority of 60 percent of lawmakers would still have to approve the bill even with the amendment is because the legislation still includes “fees and taxes,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at Marijuana Policy Project, said in an action alert email this week.
The revisions were partially responsive to a February report submitted by the Adult Use Cannabis Task Force, which was put together by Keeley in order to “study issues surrounding the possible future legalization of non-medical, adult use cannabis in Delaware.”
“Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D) and I took the discussion and comments received during the Adult Use Cannabis Task Force seriously and we believe this amendment reflects the hard work of the task force members,” Keeley said in a press release. “The Adult Use Cannabis Task Force brought together a variety of stakeholders and has compiled thoughtful and diverse information that would improve House Bill 110.”
“It has been a priority of mine to take our time and carefully study the issues and industries that would be impacted by cannabis regulation. We have the opportunity to create an entirely new industry in Delaware and I am committed to ensuring that cannabis is regulated responsibly and safely.”
Tom Donovan, an attorney who sat on the task force, wrote in a recent editorial for Delaware Online that “Delawareans will know one way or the other by June 30, if their interests are being served by their elected officials.”
“They will know if the 61 percent in favor of legalizing cannabis will be fairly represented when a vote on HB 110 is finally taken. They will know if they have a voice in creating sensible policies, or if politics as usual takes that away from them,” he said.
The bill will effectively die if it fails to pass, or doesn’t come up for a vote, before the June 30 end-of-session deadline.
One official familiar with the legislation told Marijuana Moment that a House vote would take place on Wednesday or Thursday, if at all. If the House does vote to pass the bill, it would then have to be taken up in the state Senate, where its likelihood of passage is unknown, by Saturday.
Should the bill ultimately pass, it could face another challenge: Delaware Gov. John Carney (D).
In February, a spokesperson for Carney told the Associated Press that the governor “does not believe now is the time to move forward with legalization.”
“The governor does not believe that Delaware should be a test case, and should instead continue to monitor implementation in other states.”
Marijuana Moment requested comment on the status of the governor’s position on the issue, but a representative from his office did not respond by the time of publication.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.
Trump Says Marijuana Makes People “Lose IQ Points” In Secret Recording
President Trump could be heard saying that using marijuana makes people “lose IQ points” in a secretly recorded conversation released on Saturday.
“In Colorado they have more accidents,” the president said in the clip captured by Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who is at the center of the Ukraine scandal that led to the president’s impeachment. “It does cause an IQ problem.”
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Photo courtesy of YouTube/White House.
Austin Police Chief Says Marijuana Arrests Will Continue Despite City Council Vote
Chief Brian Manley said he would continue to enforce marijuana laws the day after the city council unanimously approved stopping arrests and tickets for low-level cases.
The day after the Austin City Council approved a resolution to stop arresting or ticketing people for most low-level marijuana possession offenses, the police chief made clear he had no plans to do so.
“[Marijuana] is still illegal, and we will still enforce marijuana law if we come across people smoking in the community,” Chief Brian Manley said during a news conference Friday afternoon.
Though cracking down on those in possession of small amounts of marijuana has never been a priority for the department, he said, police will continue to either issue tickets under the city’s “cite-and-release” policy or arrest people if officers “come across it.”
The difference, according to City Council member and resolution sponsor Greg Casar, is that the council’s move now guarantees those actions will come with no penalty. Tickets will be meaningless pieces of paper and any arrests will result in a quick release with no charges accepted from prosecutors, he told The Texas Tribune after the news conference.
“What has changed since yesterday is that enforcement, almost in virtually all cases, is now handing someone a piece of paper with no penalty or no court date,” Casar said.
The move by the City Council came as a direct result from Texas’ new hemp law which complicated marijuana prosecution across the state. Last summer, when lawmakers legalized hemp, they also changed the definition of marijuana from cannabis to cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the plant.
Many prosecutors, including those in Austin’s Travis County, now won’t accept pot cases based on look and smell alone, requiring lab testing to determine THC levels before accepting a case. Such testing is not yet available in public crime labs, though some counties and cities have spent money to obtain test results from private labs.
The council’s resolution prohibited using city funds or personnel to conduct such testing in non-felony marijuana cases. It also directed the elimination, to the furthest extent possible, of arrests or citations for cannabis possession. As Manley also noted, the resolution clarifies it can’t technically decriminalize marijuana, since that is state law.
The resolution gave the city manager until May 1 to report back to the council on how police were trained in this new resolution, and Casar said he hopes Manley reviews his policies before then.
Manley said in the news conference that he would continue to review the resolution, as well as police policies.
But, he assured, “a City Council does not have the authority to tell a police department not to enforce a state law.”
The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Andrew Yang Wants To Legalize Psychedelic Mushrooms For Military Veterans
Andrew Yang says he wants to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for military veterans to help them combat mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
During a town hall event at an Iowa college on Thursday, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate was asked whether he would take initiative and allow veterans to access medical marijuana if elected. Yang replied he “will be so excited to be that commander-in-chief” that he would not only end federal cannabis prohibition but would go one step further by legalizing the psychedelic fungus for veterans as well.
“We need to get marijuana off of the Controlled Substances Act and legalize it at the federal level, make it freely available,” he said. “I say this because I’ve talked to hundreds of veterans and other Americans who benefit from marijuana as a pain relief treatment, and it’s much less deadly than the opiates that many, many people are using for the same conditions.”
“I’ve talked to veterans who’ve also benefited from psilocybin mushrooms,” he added. “They said it was the only thing that actually has helped combat their PTSD. I’m for legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for veterans as well. Pretty much if it’s going to help a veteran, we should make it easier, not harder, for them to get access to it.”
Yang’s drug policy reform platform is unique in that respect. While the majority of Democratic candidates support marijuana legalization, he’s pushed unique proposals such as decriminalizing possession of opioids and making psilocybin mushrooms “more freely available” for therapeutic purposes. The candidate also wants to invest federal funds in safe injection facilities where individuals can use prohibited drugs in a medically supervised environment and receive help getting into treatment.
He hasn’t gone so far as embracing the decriminalization of all drugs, as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has, however.
That said, Yang did signal that he’s open to legalizing and regulating “certain drugs” beyond cannabis, which he argued would disrupt international drug cartels. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) recently said she backs “legalizing and regulating” currently illegal controlled substances to protect public safety and combat the illicit market.
At the Iowa town hall, Yang went on to say that he’s particularly interested in legalizing marijuana, and he again pledged to “pardon everyone who’s in jail for a non-violent marijuana-related offense because they shouldn’t be in jail for something that’s frankly legal in other parts of the country.”
“And I would pardon them all on April 20, 2021, high-five them on the way out of jail and be like, ‘things got a lot better in the last year,'” he said, referencing the unofficial cannabis holiday 4/20.
Photo element courtesy of Gage Skidmore.