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April 22, 2023

Recreational marijuana to become legal in Delaware despite opposition from Gov. John Carney

Under House Bill 1 and House Bill 2 adults 21 and over can possess up to an ounce of weed and the state will establish a regulated industry to sell cannabis

Government Marijuana Legalization
Delaware weed legalization Rick Proctor/

Recreational marijuana will become legal in Delaware after Gov. John Carney said he would no longer stand in the way of legislation. The state will create a regulated industry to sell marijuana to consumers 21 and older, recreationally.

Delaware will become the 22nd state to legalize recreational marijuana, Gov. John Carney announced on Friday. 

Despite Carney's opposition to making weed legal, he said he would no longer stand in the way of the legislation passing. He said he would not sign the two-bill legislation, however.

"In the coming days, I will allow House Bill 1 and House Bill 2 to be enacted into Delaware law without my signature," Carney said

"These two pieces of legislation remove all state-level civil and criminal penalties from simple marijuana possession and create a highly regulated industry to conduct recreational marijuana sales in Delaware. As I’ve consistently said, I believe the legalization of recreational marijuana is not a step forward."

The two-bill legislation was spearheaded by State Rep. Ed Osienski.

"After five years of countless meetings, debates, negotiations, and conversations, I’m grateful we have reached the point where Delaware has joined a growing number of states that have legalized and regulated adult recreational marijuana for personal use,” Osienski said in a statement.  "We know that more than 60% of Delawareans support the legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use, and more than two-thirds of the General Assembly agreed."

House Bill 1 will remove all penalties for the use or possession of marijuana and marijuana accessories. It also established that any adults 21 years old or over can have up to an ounce in their possession. Personal weed must be in a closed container while in a vehicle. Smoking in public is still illegal, as well as growing plants. 

House Bill 2 will set the parameters for legal cannabis sales in Delaware. Under that legislation 30 retail licenses will be awarded to dispensaries, 30 manufacturing licenses, and 60 cultivation licenses to process and package marijuana. 

Retail licenses are not expected to be issued until at least August of 2024, WHYY reported. A 15% tax will be added to Delaware's recreational weed retail sales.

Osienski said that Carney has to appoint a commissioner and select an oversight committee. Regulations on plant propagation, which is the process of creating new plants, also will have to be established.  

Carney's decision to move on from the battle over marijuana legislation less than a year after he decided to veto legislation in May 2022. 

"I do not believe that promoting or expanding the use of recreational marijuana is in the best interests of the state of Delaware, especially our young people. Questions about the long-term health and economic impacts of recreational marijuana use, as well as serious law enforcement concerns, remain unresolved," Carney said at the time. 

Carney had been silent on the latest legislation to legalize weed after it passed in the Delaware state Senate on March 28. 

Despite his position, it's a new day in Delaware.

"I remain concerned about the consequences of a recreational marijuana industry in our state," he said. "I’m concerned, especially about the potential effects on Delaware’s children, on the safety of our roadways, and on our poorest neighborhoods, where I believe a legal marijuana industry will have a disproportionately negative impact."

The decision to legalize recreational cannabis in Delaware comes a year after New Jersey began the sale of weed

New Jersey adopted legislation that decriminalized weed and made adult use legal in Nov. 2020. 

Pennsylvania has not moved forward on legislation to legalize marijuana despite Gov. Josh Shapiro being in favor of the decision. 

There are multiple pieces of legislation on the table including a proposal that would regulate the sale of marijuana through  Fine Wine & Good Spirits and another that would allow the government to create a plan to regulate the sale of weed in the state