Justice delayed in Delaware: activists react to cancellation of cannabis vote


Cannabis legalization was making tremendous strides in the final weeks of Delaware’s 2021 legislative session. The first state appeared firmly positioned to join Virginia, Connecticut, New Mexico, New Jersey and New York to end to the ban in recent months. Suddenly sweeping amendments delayed progress. From now on, consumers will continue to be arrested and prosecuted until at least 2022.

The HB150 adult usage bill past 10-5 to the House Health and Human Development Committee on March 24, 2021. Next, Wilmington City Council passed a resolution strongly supporting full passage of HB150 on April 17.

Polls continue to show growing support among Delaware voters in favor of legalization, often over 60 percent.

A big moment came when a key House vote was slated for June 10. Then suddenly HB150 was taken off the agenda a few hours before the scheduled vote.

The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Ed Osienski (D-24), commented after the 2021 vote was canceled:

“Part of our effort has been to level the playing field for those most affected by the failed war on drugs. However, the inclusion of our social equity fund project would make House Bill 150 a 3/4 majority bill, in accordance with the Delaware Constitution. Simply put, we do not have the 31 votes necessary to pass the bill as it is now.

However, removing the fund – which would restore the original and achievable 3/5 majority – would create further concerns about our commitment to these communities. My mission at this stage is to find a compromise that all supporters can join. When we come to that compromise, I will present the HB 150 for review. I am committed to continuing to work with all parties to find a solution that allows Delaware to become the next state to legalize adult recreational marijuana.

Delaware’s legislative session ended on June 30, pushing Delaware’s next cannabis legalization opportunity until January 2022, at the earliest.

“We are disappointed that this urgent criminal justice and police reform is postponed for another year,” said Zoë Patchell, Executive Director of Delaware CAN, “We really had hope, for the good of all people and communities. affected by the cannabis ban on a daily basis, that lawmakers would reach an agreement before the end of the session and finally end arrests and contact with the police for behavior now legal in eighteen states and the capital of our country .

Patchell noted that a 2015 decriminalization law was very limited and that arrests for possession of cannabis continue.

“The cost of waiting will ruin thousands of lives, continued targeted enforcement, especially in poor and colored communities, and likely lead to an increase in cannabis offenses. We also expect consumers to flock to New Jersey and start forming secure access networks, ”Patchell said.

Laura Sharer, Executive Director of Delaware NORML, said, “Legalizing cannabis is more than just authorizing recreational use or the money that can be earned. This essential reform aims to undo a century of racist policies that have disproportionately targeted black and Latino communities. It is about rebuilding the communities that have suffered the most. And it’s about making sure everyone has access to the opportunities offered by the legal cannabis market.

“All arrests have failed,” Sharer noted, “With legalization we have the opportunity to implement a public health-focused cannabis policy. The task now is to bring our legislators together to ensure the swift passage of this measure. “

Delaware NORML and Delaware Cannabis Action Network (CAN) ran letter writing campaigns that generated thousands of emails to lawmakers. With the bill remaining active, the groups are urging supporters to continue contacting their lawmakers to support the measure.

As the House vote loomed, Delaware Governor John Carney spoke out against the bill.

the Delaware Newspaper reported: “When asked about Carney’s lobbying efforts with lawmakers, his spokesman Jonathan Starkey said Carney had ‘technical concerns with the legislation regarding finance and tax collection, public safety and public health “”.

The delay is also the result of a last minute effort by a few longtime opponents of legalization. They made dozens of last-minute calls to lawmakers after the bill was passed, with the clear intention of stopping or delaying progress.

In a statement made to News Journal, the Delaware State Troopers Association, a union that represents law enforcement, admitted to lobbying against HB150. Union executive director Thomas Brakin maintained the organization’s position that law enforcement should continue to use the scent of cannabis as an investigative tool. Brackin also attacked some of the criteria for determining social equity candidates as grounds for their opposition and lobbying against legalization.

“We just don’t understand why convicted felons would have the option, would have an added benefit of being able to get into this business,” Brackin said.

This ill-informed claim was repeated by conservative Republicans, as well as a smaller group of moderate Democrats.

Since retail cannabis sales will include license fees and new tax revenues, a three-fifths super-majority was required in both houses to pass HB150, although language regarding the social equity fund was resolved. This incredibly high hurdle was only missed by 4 votes when a similar bill was put to a vote in 2018.

Activists have been calling for reform for nearly a decade. Grassroots consumer groups and registered medical patients in mairjuana are preparing for the final construction sites as early as possible in 2022.

“Legalization won’t just happen in Delaware, it will take real work,” Patchell said confidently.

“We face powerful and well-funded opponents who aim to uphold the cannabis ban and maintain the control it offers over our residents. Each year, our legislators seem to give in to these powers. We do not have the ability to put legalization on the ballot, and our legislation continues to face a qualified majority voting requirement akin to obstruction. That’s why we are committed to keeping our supporters and advocates on the diligent path, working together over the next few months to make Delaware a better future with legal cannabis.

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