Rep. Keeley files amendment in effort to salvage marijuana legalization bill

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State Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington, filed an amendment for House Bill 110, a bill to legalize marijuana in the state.

House Amendment 1 to House Bill 110 addresses issues around the potential regulation of marijuana, from consumer safety and impaired driving, to taxation and licensing following public task force meetings.

“Sen. Margaret Rose Henry and I took the discussion and comments received during the Adult Use Cannabis Task Force seriously and we believe this amendment reflects the hard work of the task force members. The Adult Use Cannabis Task Force brought together a variety of stakeholders and has compiled thoughtful and diverse information that would improve House Bill 110,” said Rep. Keeley, D-Wilmington. “It has been a priority of mine to take our time and carefully study the issues and industries that would be impacted by cannabis regulation. We have the opportunity to create an entirely new industry in Delaware and I am committed to ensuring that cannabis is regulated responsibly and safely.”

The amendment sets provisions that would regulate marijuana more strictly, with more controls for safe cultivation, seed to sale tracking, random testing and consumer safeguards that enhance educational labeling and prohibit products that look like candy or cartoon characters, a release stated.

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“The devil is in the details, and that’s why we’ve strived to be deliberate, serious, and thoughtful about legalizing and regulating cannabis,” saidSen. Henry, D-Wilmington, prime Senate sponsor of HB 110. “This amendment is a reflection of that effort and of our commitment to addressing good faith questions around the implementation and enforcement of HB 110. I’m hopeful that it will help us move forward on this long-overdue correction of criminal justice policy in Delaware.”

The amendment also contains language that further clarifies employer protections as well as explicit language directing 10 percent of tax proceeds to the Department of Safety and Homeland Security to improve driving under the influence enforcement through specific training from drug recognition experts, the purchase of devices that measure THC levels as they become available, and implementation of pilot programs to better identify and deter drugged driving, a release stated.

Currently, House Bill 110, which Rep. Keeley introduced in 2017, would establish a commission to regulate, tax and distribute cannabis legally in Delaware, modeled off of existing laws governing the regulation of alcohol. It was released from committee and now is awaiting a vote in the full House.

Backers noted that eight and the District of Columbia have regulated marijuana for legal use by adults over age 21. A University of Delaware poll has indicated that 61 percent of Delaware voters support legalizing marijuana.

With the exception of Vermont, only one legislature has approved legalization, although New Jersey appears to be moving in that direction. Other states have approved legalization through voter referendum, a process that has never been in place in Delaware.

The bill has failed to gain traction in the General Assembly, with opposition come from the medical community, AAA-Mid Atlantic and areas of law enforcement. Many members of the General Assembly have backgrounds in law enforcement.

AAA Mid-Atlantic restated its opposition after the announcement and seemed to show no room for compromise.

“Legalizing recreational marijuana will only exacerbate an already growing drug-impaired driving problem. 80 percent of drivers involved with fatal crashes who tested positive for drugs hadconsumed marijuana before getting behind the wheel (NTSHA/FARS 2016).We have a serious drug-impaired driving issue in this country. In fact, morefatal drivers tested positive for drug use than alcohol use in 2015 and 2016.Marijuana, used alone or in combination with other substances, is, perhaps, our greatest highway safety threat.”

Marijuana does remain in the bloodstream for a long period and does not necessarily mean that usage among such individuals has increased, supporters of legalization claim.

Delaware has legalized medical marijuana and decriminalized possession of small amounts.

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