Legislature to revisit HB 110, which was voted down last summer

Almost a year after a similar bill was defeated in a narrow vote, House Bill 110 – a move to legalize recreational marijuana – was re-introduced in the State House of Representatives last week.

HB-110, known as the Delaware Marijuana Control Act, intentionally uses the same bill number as last year's failed legislation co-sponsored by State Rep. Helene Keeley, D-N, Wilmington, which seeks to allow adults over the age of 21 to possess and consume up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use.

Proponents of the Delaware Marijuana Control Act maintain that it would regulate and tax marijuana in a fashion similar to alcoholic beverages, according to a statement from the Delaware State Caucus.

Sponsored by Edward Osienski, D-Newark, the reworked legislation is a product of House and Senate Democrats, 14 of which have signed the bill as prime or co-sponsors.

The 2019 version of the Delaware Marijuana Control Act seeks to create a new fee and tax -- an act which requires a three-fifths majority, or 25 votes in the 41-member House.  Last June, the first HB 110 garnered 21 "yes" votes.

During the debate over legalization last June, State Rep. Lyndon Yearick, R-Dover South, undercut a claim that enacting the statute would ease the Delaware's opioid epidemic, accordoing to a press release.

“Opioid [overdose] deaths have increased, not decreased, since Colorado legalized marijuana for medical use starting in 2000,” Yearick said.

State Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, also opposed the bill last year, referencing a state report on Delaware infants exposed to illegal substances while in utero. 

King said marijuana was responsible for over half of the infants exposed to a single illicit drug.

Currently, 10 states and the District of Columbia have legalized small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use. There are also 34 states with medical marijuana programs, including Delaware.

Delaware is already among the 22 states that have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana.

A recent Pew study said that 54 percent of Americans believe that marijuana should be legalized at the federal level.