Adult-Use Cannabis Bill is one vote away from becoming law in Delaware Due to the absence of a key legislator

 Cannabis Bill, A plan to legalize a commercial adult-use cannabis business in Delaware received majority support in the House on May 19, but fell short of the supermajority needed to pass due to the absence of a crucial sponsor.

House Bill 372 requires a three-fifths majority, or 25 votes, in the Democrat-controlled Delaware House to pass because it would impose a new tax—a 15% cannabis excise tax on retail sales.

Marijuana, cannabis, cannabis bill

However, because Majority Whip John “Larry” Mitchell, a retired police officer who supports the bill, was absent from the floor vote on Thursday, the bill fell short of the 25 votes needed to pass, according to The Associated Press.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ed Osienski, changed his vote to “no” at the last minute, a procedural move that allows him, a member who voted with the majority, to bring the legislation back to the floor for reconsideration when the chamber reconvenes from a two-week recess next month, according to the news outlet.

“I believed it was going to be a nice day coming into today,” Osienski told the Delaware News Journal. “Everything has gone up and down, up and down.” This was a setback.”

While Osienski’s attempt to pass the Delaware Marijuana Control Act encountered a snag on Thursday, he was successful in getting companion legislation, H.B. 371, passed out of the General Assembly and to Gov. John Carney’s desk earlier this month.

Adults 21 and older will be allowed to possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis, pending the governor’s signature. Possessing up to 1 ounce is a civil offense punished by a maximum punishment of $100 under current laws and penalties.

After an all-inclusive bill fell two votes short of passing the House in early March, Osienski is sponsoring two distinct companion bills.

The governor’s office has 10 days to consider the possession measure, but Carney is opposed to complete legalization on Cannabis Bill.

“The governor has been clear that he does not favor marijuana legalization, and his opinion has not changed,” Carney spokeswoman Emily David Hershman told the Associated Press in an email before the vote on Thursday.

The Delaware Marijuana Control Act (the bill that came just short of passing the House on May 19) aims to create a legal framework to license and regulate “a new industry that will create well-paying jobs for Delawareans while striking a blow against the criminal element that profits from the thriving illegal market for marijuana in our state,” according to Osienski.

A “marijuana commissioner” would be empowered to create regulations under the measure, but would have to consult with the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement before enacting enforcement practices.

Within 16 months of its effective date, the measure would allow for the issue of up to 30 retail licenses, 30 manufacturing licenses, 60 cultivation licenses, and five testing licenses.

According to the bill’s text, the commissioner would be in charge of issuing 20 open licenses and 10 social equity licenses for cultivation facilities of 2,500 square feet or more, as well as 20 microbusiness licenses and 10 social equity licenses for cultivation facilities of less than 2,500 square feet. In addition, for retail activities, the commissioner would issue 15 open licenses and 15 social equity permits.

Social equity applicants would be eligible for two testing licenses and one-third of the production licenses.

“For the past two years, we have listened to concerns from communities that have been badly impacted by marijuana prohibition for decades,” Osienski told his House colleagues before Thursday’s rejection.

“We developed a social equity licensing pool and the Justice Reinvestment Fund to try to repair some of the harm done, and to guarantee that these same communities benefit from this new legal market,” he said. “Delaware residents who live in a disproportionately affected area, have been convicted of a marijuana-related offense, or are the children of a person convicted of a marijuana-related offense are eligible to participate in this pool.”

The Justice Reinvestment Fund would receive tax revenue from retail sales to fund programs to restore the quality of life for communities most disadvantaged by prohibition and drug war policies.

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