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Delaware House Shoots Down Recreational Legalization Bill

A majority of lawmakers in Delaware’s state House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill to legalize recreational cannabis, but that was still below the threshold necessary for the legislation to advance.

The Associated Press reported that “[m]embers of the Democrat-led chamber voted 23-14 in favor the legislation, but it required a three-fifths majority of 25 votes because it would impose a new tax,” adding that “No Republicans voted in favor of the bill, and four lawmakers, including two Democrats, chose not to vote.”

Despite being a solidly blue state, Delaware –– like its most famous native son, President Joe Biden –– has been slow to embrace legalization.

As reported by the AP, the sponsor of the bill that was defeated on Thursday, Democratic state House Rep. Ed Osienski, noted that “Delaware is the only state in the country with a Democratic governor and Democrat-controlled legislature that has not approved legalization.”

“We’re unique,” Oseinski said.

The state’s governor, John Carney, has long been a vocal opponent of legalizing cannabis.

“Look, I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” Carney said last year, arguing that marijuana could exacerbate the state’s opioid crisis.

“If you talk to the parents of some of these folks that have overdosed and passed away they don’t think it’s a good idea because they remember the trajectory of their own sons and daughters,” the governor said. “And I’m not suggesting that that’s always a gateway for all that, but if you talk to those Attack Addiction advocates they don’t think it’s a very good idea.”

“As I look at other states that have it, it just doesn’t seem to me to be a very positive thing from the strength of the community, of the economy in their states,” he added. “Is it the worst thing in the world? No, of course not.”

Osienski’s bill failed to attract support from his GOP colleagues, with one notable objection coming from Republican state House Rep. Mike Smith.

According to the Associated Press, Smith “was the lone GOP member of the Health and Human Development Committee to vote in January to release the bill for consideration by the full House,” and his vote against the bill on Thursday came after Democrats rejected a slew of amendments he had proposed, including one that would have added “felony convictions for violating Delaware’s tax code or Controlled Substance Act to the criteria the state could consider in deciding whether to issue someone a marijuana industry license.”

Smith, as quoted by the AP, blamed Democrats for the bill’s demise.

“I hope people remember this moment, because you killed the legalization of marijuana,” Smith said.

Osienski called Smith’s 11th-hour amendments “disingenuous.”

“I’ve been working with Republicans … and the first time I saw his amendments was today,” he said, as quoted by the AP.

Oseinski sees the setback as nothing new. Last summer, he saw his legalization bill pulled from the House’s agenda mere hours before a vote was scheduled.

Osienski called it quits at that time.

“Part of our effort has been to level the playing field for those most impacted by the failed War on Drugs. However, including our proposed social equity fund would make House Bill 150 a 3/4 majority bill, per the Delaware Constitution,” Osienski said then. “Simply put, we do not have the 31 votes necessary to pass the bill in its current state.”

“However, removing the fund—which would restore the original, attainable 3/5 majority—would create other concerns about our commitment to those communities. At this point, I have one task: to reach a consensus that can be supported by all. Once we have reached that compromise, I’ll bring forward HB 150 for discussion. 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,” he added.