Delaware’s House Revenue and Finance Committee has approved a recreational cannabis bill, moving it to the full chamber for consideration, according to a Delaware State News report. A similar proposal failed in the chamber by just four votes last session.
The measure would set up a taxed-and-regulated market but would not allow home growing. It includes a 15 percent sales tax – and, because it would implement a new tax, the bill would need a three-fifths supermajority, 25 votes, to pass.
It would initially license 15 retail stores within 16 months of the bill’s effective date. Medical dispensaries would also be able to sell to non-patients if there is a sufficient supply. Recreational customers would be able to purchase up to one ounce. The measure includes municipal control, allowing communities to ban industry operations. Much like alcohol sales in the state, cannabis sales would only be allowed during certain hours and industry oversight would be the responsibility of the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement.
Last year’s bill estimated that the state would see revenues between $9 million and $50 million from legal cannabis sales, but due to changes in this year’s version, it’s unclear how much the state could expect from cannabis-derived taxes and fees. A legalization task force widened that revenue estimate to between $9 million and $70 million.
Attorney General Kathy Jennings, a Democrat, supports legalization. Democratic Gov. John Carney does not. Last month a spokesperson for Carney told the State News that the governor “does not believe [Delaware] should move forward” with the proposal; following the committee approval, a spokesperson told the State News that Carney believes the state “should continue to monitor progress in other states that have legalized.”
Republican state Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, who voted to move the bill out of the committee, said he would not support the measure is it didn’t include some changes, including employer protection. Democratic state Rep. Ed Osienski, the bill’s main sponsor, indicated he was willing to amend the legislation so long as the intent remains intact.
Delaware decriminalized cannabis in 2015 and Carney signed an expungement bill for low-level cannabis offenses in September.