Delaware became the 22nd state to legalize cannabis for adults in April when Governor John Carney allowed a pair of legalization bills to become law without his signature.
House Bill 1 decriminalizes cannabis possession for adults while HB2 legalizes and regulates cultivation. Both bills passed the state House of Representatives and Senate with a supermajority and though Carney, a Democrat, has long opposed legalization, vetoing similar bills in 2022, he said in a statement he would not veto either of this year’s laws, meaning both took effect by April 26.
“I came to this decision because I believe we’ve spent far too much time focused on this issue, when Delawareans face more serious and pressing concerns every day,” Carney said in a statement. “It’s time to move on.”
Members of the Delaware Cannabis Policy Coalition praised the move.
“We applaud Gov. Carney for not standing in the way of progress,” Marijuana Policy Project CEO Toi Hutchinson said in a press release.
“This victory is a result of the tireless work of thousands of volunteers, dozens of lawmakers, and with the support of a huge majority of our Delaware community,” Delaware NORML executive director Laura Sharer said. “This is a significant step towards creating a fair system that respects personal freedom, promotes public health and safety, generates economic growth, and addresses social justice issues.”
Prospective business owners can begin applying for licenses to sell, test or cultivate marijuana in the spring of 2024, with the first licenses handed out in 14 months. Licenses will cost $10,000 every two years.
According to the MPP, the state could approve up to 30 marijuana retail licenses, 30 manufacturing licenses, 60 cultivation licenses and five testing licenses within 16 months.
The new laws also include social equity provisions to set aside a certain number of each license to ensure people from communities disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs or who have been arrested for lower-level drug crimes can participate in the new market. Social equity applicants will also receive state assistance in applying for licenses and lower fees.
— Brian Beckley