Carney says state has “spent too much time” on marijuana

Sam HautGovernment, Headlines


Gov. Carney avoids question on marijuana legalization at town hall.

Gov. John Carney dodged a question about whether he’ll sign the two marijuana bills now sitting on his desk.

“I’m not going to make any news tonight,” he told a woman at the New Castle Airport Tuesday night, where he was holding the first of a series of Town Halls.

The presentation in front of 60 people who packed the room focuses mostly on his fiscal year 2024 budget.

In questions afterwards, audience members brought up several topics, chief among them health care and the fate of the two marijuana bills.

Both House Bill 1 and House Bill 2 passed the General Assembly in March. State law says bills automatically become law 10 days (not including Sundays) after being sent to the governor, unless he vetoes them.

HB 1, which would legalize personal marijuana use in Delaware, was sent to the governor April 11, which means the 10th day would be Saturday, April 22, according to bill sponsor Ed Osienski, D-Newark.

HB 2, which would create a legal and regulated marijuana industry, was delivered on Friday, April 14, which means the 10thh day would be Wednesday, April 26.

Related Story: Will Carney let marijuana bills become law without signing?

The audience member pointed out that surveys said 70% of Delawareans wanted pot to be legal and that taxes on legal sales can be used to help with many state issues.

She also pointed out that both New Jersey and Maryland have legalized marijuana, with Pennsylvania believed to be right behind them.

Carney said he does support medical marijuana, but when it comes to legalization, he believes there are some negatives, including a higher risk that children are exposed to it.

“I vetoed [last year’s bill] because I don’t think it’s good for young people, and I don’t think it’s good for our competitiveness,” Carney said. “Now reasonable people can disagree on that. I do support the medical marijuana program.”

He said he wasn’t sure a survey that 70% of Delaware residents want legal marjuana was accurate, but acknowledged that many people – including many in the room – did.

“I don’t make my decision based on poll numbers,” he said. “I think we work with all states to do it right. We don’t know about impaired driving, we don’t have any tests like we do with alcohol. Lots of different issues.”

Marijuana vs. alcohol

It’s like alcohol, someone in the audience said.

“We need another alcohol thing?” Carney asked.

He pointed out that the state has been trying to lower smoking rates by raising taxes on a pack of cigarettes so people would smoke less.

“I’m not really a fan of so-called sin taxes,” Carney said.

One man who asked about health care pointed out at the end of his question that he had worked with incarcerated kids and sided with Carney on worries about “the evils of letting marijuana out there to everybody else … in the sense that it’s not controlled.”

“I believe that doesn’t lead to many good things,” the audience member said.

Carney said that one thing he has learned in town halls and talking with people on both sides of the issue is that everyone believes marijuana ought to be regulated in a tighter way, for want of a better term.

“So wherever we end up, that ought to be the goal, right?” he asked the group. 

“One of the things in my view, with all the different priorities that we have, with all the challenges of opioids and opiate overdoses and trying to get our children where they need to be getting through the pandemic, we’ve spent too much time on this issue,” Carney said.

“It’s time to move on to the next set of challenges, and that’s about where we are.”

After the meeting, Quimby said the governor would make a decision by April 22.

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