As of April 14, two cannabis bills have officially been sent to the desk of Delaware Gov. John Carney. House Bill 1 legalizes small amounts of cannabis for personal use, and House Bill 2 establishes regulations for cultivation and sales. Both combined make up the Delaware Marijuana Control Act.
According to the Delaware State Constitution, the governor has 10 days to make a decision about the bills (which does not include Sundays), or sometime between April 22 for HB-1 and April 26 for HB-2. Carney may either sign the bills, veto them, or make no decision and allow them to become law without his signature.
According to bill sponsor Rep. Ed Osienski, the arrival of HB-1 and HB-2 on Carney’s desk is the result of a lot of work by legislators and advocates. “We have been on a long, multi-year journey with the Marijuana Control Act. We have had countless hearings, debates, stakeholder engagement and deliberations. We have incorporated numerous suggestions and changes from interested parties—including the governor’s office—throughout this process to arrive at what I believe is the best possible plan for legalizing and regulating adult recreational marijuana,” said Osienski. “I am hopeful that the governor will take all of this into account as he considers these bills and that he will acknowledge the desires of an overwhelming majority of Delaware residents.”
Carney’s response to these bills isn’t certain. Most recently, Carney attended a press event for a campaign called “Making Delaware’s Roadways Safer” on March 29. While there, Delaware reporter Tim Furlong asked Carney what he might do with the cannabis legislation bills at the end of March.“No, I’d rather focus on this issue,” Carney said at an event. “Obviously I’m concerned mostly about intended consequences of legalization, including highway safety.”
Carney initially vetoed a bill to legalize cannabis possession in May 2022, stating that he supports medical cannabis and decriminalization, but not recreational cannabis. “That said, I do not believe that promoting or expanding the use of recreational marijuana is in the best interests of the state of Delaware, especially our young people,” Carney said last year. “Questions about the long-term health and economic impacts of recreational marijuana use, as well as serious law enforcement concerns, remain unresolved.”
Following the veto, legislators attempted to have the veto overridden in June 2022, but the effort failed. However, legislators reintroduced recreational cannabis into the legislature in January 2023. The House approved the bill on March 7, followed by the Senate on March 28.
In early March, Osienski shared his hopes that continually revisiting cannabis will eventually lead to a signature from the governor instead of a veto. “My hope is that with continued open dialogue with the governor’s office, that will help alleviate a veto,” Osienski said. “I have more support from my members … for a veto override, but I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.”
Delaware shares a border with New Jersey and Maryland, which have both passed adult-use cannabis. According to a statement provided to High Times by Brian Vicente of Vicente LLP, Delaware is next up to approve legalization and help bolster cannabis on the east coast. “The impending passage of legalization in Delaware is a historic and important step towards establishing the Atlantic Seaboard as ground for legal adult cannabis regulation,” Vicente said. “For many years, legalization was considered a West Coast phenomenon, but the East Coast is now following suit. While we are still a ways away from having cannabis legal from Florida to Maine, Delaware further cements the East Coast as an area turning its back on marijuana prohibition.”