A marijuana legalization bill was narrowly defeated by the Delaware House.
The amended bill was defeated by a 23-14 margin, with retired Delaware State trooper and current House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, Rehoboth Beach the only no vote among Democrats.
According to the Republican House caucus, State Rep. Mike Smith, R-Pike Creek, indicated he would vote for the measure. However, after House Democrats defeated several amendments he sponsored on party-line votes, Smith indicated he would pull his support.
The long-time sponsor of the bill said he would continue to work for legalization.
The bill requires a 60% super-majority for passage since the legislation would raise revenue from taxes on cannabis.
The bill comes with features aimed at limiting the role of “corporate marijuana” companies that are vying for the lion’s share of a legalized market.
One provision calls for a small portion of tax revenues to go to areas that were hard hit by the “war on drugs” that often sent a higher percentage of people of color to prison than whites.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, issued the following:
“For the past several years, the majority of Delawareans have been clear that they support legalizing recreational marijuana for adult users. We have heard from numerous members of the public – advocates, veterans, retired law enforcement officers, educators, and even faith leaders – who have overwhelmingly voiced support for legalizing adult recreational marijuana.
“During that time, we have had numerous meetings with stakeholders, made several changes to our legislation, and engaged lawmakers to answer their questions and attempt to address their concerns. After all of this effort, I believe we owed it to the residents of Delaware to hold a full floor debate and vote on this issue. While I’m deeply disappointed by the outcome, I still firmly believe that Delaware is more than capable of successfully enacting policies for safe and legal cannabis, and I will continue working on this issue to win the support to make it a reality.
“For the advocates who have put in the time and effort these past four years, I’m grateful for your support and your passion on this issue, and I hope you will continue to make your voice heard on this issue. Throughout my time in the House, I’ve seen advocates sway opponents to various bills, and I believe legal recreational marijuana for adult users is no different.”
The bill’s opponents included some of the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries that are not happy with carve-outs in the bill for smaller operators. Oppositon has also come from AAA, portions of the medical community, and some in law enforcement.