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Delaware Gov. Carney Vetoes Marijuana Legalization Bill

The veto, likely the most controversial of Carney’s career, goes against his own Democratic Party and sets up a showdown

Shaquan Stimpson / WITN-22

Delaware Governor John Carney said Tuesday he’ll veto a bill to legalize possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana. The veto is likely the most controversial of second-termer Carney’s career. Not only does it go against most of Carney’s own Democratic Party. It also sets up a historic showdown with the Delaware General Assembly, reports the Delaware News Journal.

For years, Carney has been stalwart in his opposition to Cannabis legalization.

He said he does 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.”

Governor Cites ”Serious Law Enforcement Concerns”

“I recognize the positive effect marijuana can have for people with certain health conditions,” Carney said, reports AP News. “And for that reason, I continue to support the medical marijuana industry in Delaware. 

“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. “Questions about the long-term health and economic impacts of recreational marijuana use, as well as serious law enforcement concerns, remain unresolved.”

There’s only one ”serious law enforcement concern” we see, frankly, when it comes to Cannabis. And that’s the fact that law enforcement is concerned they won’t be able to keep abusing people’s rights then hiding behind pot prohibition.

General Assembly Could Still Override The Veto

The General Assembly could still override the governor’s veto of HB 371, reports Marijuana Moment. The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Ed Osienski already got more than three-fifths of the votes in both chambers.

“I respect the Legislative Branch’s role in this process. And I understand that some hold a different view on this issue,” the governor said. “However, I have been clear about my position since before I took office, and I have articulated my concerns many times.”

Osienski also sponsored a companion bill setting up regulations for an adult-use marijuana market. That legislation advanced through the committee process alongside HB 371. But then the House narrowly defeated it last week by one vote.

But it could pass on another vote, since one of its supporters was absent for the prior roll call.

Osienski “Deeply Disappointed” In Carney

Representative Osienski, the bill’s sponsor, immediately responded to the governor’s promised veto.

“More than 60% of Delawareans support the legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use,” Osienski said, reports WDEL. “Earlier this month, more than 60% of the General Assembly voted in favor of ending the prohibition against possession of a personal use quantity of marijuana.”

“Unfortunately, the governor has chosen to ignore the will of residents and a bipartisan super-majority of the General Assembly by vetoing HB 371,” Osienski said. ”I’m deeply disappointed in his decision, especially since he could have allowed the bill to become law without his signature. That would have preserved both his personal opposition and the will of the residents and legislators. I will review what options are available and decide on any next steps at a later time.”

The Votes Should Be There To Override

The General Assembly would need a three-fifths vote from both chambers to override the Governor’s veto.

That means 24 votes are required in the 40-member House, and 12 in the 20-member Senate.

Those votes should be there. HB 371 passed the House on a vote of 26 to 14. Meanwhile, the Senate vote was 13 yes and 7 no.

Delaware NORML: “See Through This Process”

Laura Sharer, executive director of Delaware NORML, urged lawmakers to override Carney’s veto, reports The Hill.

“We’re urging our General Assembly to see through this process, no matter the hurdles. Delawareans should not be left to bear the unjustifiable human costs of life-altering police stops, searches, and arrests for cannabis, a non-toxic plant,” Sharer said.

No Delaware governor has had a veto overridden since 1977, according to the Delaware News Journal. Legislators haven’t even attempted to override a governor’s veto since 1990.

“We Will Not Be Stopped By This Latest Setback”

Senator Trey Paradee, the prime sponsor of HB 371 in the Senate, released a joint statement with Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola. They said they were also disappointed in the Governor’s decision.

“While his veto of House Bill 371 will not stop adults from consuming marijuana, it will help to preserve the illegal drug market created by 50 years of prohibition and criminalization that historically has been unjustly and inequitably applied to communities of color. 

“The members of the Delaware General Assembly have been fighting for years to end the failed war on marijuana and we will not be stopped by this latest setback.”

“Only Breeds Further Disrespect For This Draconian Law”

Zoe Patchell, executive director of Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network, said she hopes lawmakers who support adult-use marijuana “will stand firm against the governor.”

The veto, Patchell said, “only breeds further disrespect for this draconian law and helps the undermined integrity for institutions.” She cited the supermajority support in both chambers, and the significant support from Delawareans.

A University of Delaware 2018 poll found that 60% of state residents support legalization. 

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