After legalization effort falls short, legislator seeks task force to study issues


As an effortto legalize marijuana apparently fell short, Rep. Helene Keeley filed legislation Friday that would create a cannabis task force.

The draft measure would create a task force to make recommendations and focus on regulations around cannabis legalization for adults over age 21. Issues to be discussed include local authority and control, consumer safety, substance abuse prevention, impaired driving concerns and taxation.

Legalization efforts had faced opposition from Wilmington-based AAA Mid-Atlantic, the Medical Society and areas in law enforcement.

Currently, House Bill 110, which Rep. Keeley, D-Wilmington, introduced in March, would establish a commissioner to regulate, tax and distribute cannabis legally in Delaware. It was released from committee and now is awaiting a vote in the full House. It is believed to not have the votes.

There is growing support for cannabis legalization, but this task force would specifically lay out how legalization would be administered. The ultimate goal would be to give legislators an idea of those regulations and secure their votes for legalization.

“This is uncharted territory for the First State, and we want to make sure we are fully prepared to execute cannabis legalization safely and effectively. By studying the experiences of other states that have taxed and regulated cannabis, we will be able to learn from them,” said Keeley. “It was important for me to bring all the necessary stakeholders to the table so they are able to weigh in on these decisions. We have the opportunity to create an entirely new industry in the first state and we want to make sure we get it right.

Already eight states and the District of Columbia have regulated marijuana for legal use by adults over age 21. And a University of Delaware poll has indicated that 61 percent of Delaware voters support legalizing cannabis. However, no nearby state has approved legalization, leading to fears that the state could become a haven for marijuana users.

Under this bill, the task force will include members of the Department of Agriculture, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, marijuana policy reform and AAA Mid-Atlantic. A report will be due to the members of the General Assembly and the Governor by Jan. 31, 2018.

“Since House Bill 110 was introduced, we have urged legislators to do exactly what the Governors of Colorado and Washington advise, namely to wait for more data to be collected before trying to be the first state to pass recreational marijuana legalization through the legislative process,” said Jim Lardear, director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “In just the past few weeks we have seen new reports from the Governors Highway Safety Association, the Highway Loss Data Institute, and data from Delaware’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security that should give pause. We look forward to reviewing all of the data with the other members of the task force and working with Representative Keeley and Senator Henry to help fully inform the discussion about whether or not this is the right path for Delaware.”
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