Osienski marijuana

Marijuana legalization bill passes House, sent to Senate

Sam HautGovernment, Headlines

Osienski marijuana

Rep. Ed. Osienski, speaking, successfully led his marijuana legalization bill out of the House of Representatives. Photo by Sam Haut.

The Delaware House of Representatives on Tuesday once again sent a bill to legalize the use of marijuana in the First State to the Senate, this time on a 28 to 13 vote.

House Bill 1 is sponsored yet again by Rep. Edward Osienski, D-Newark, who managed to get a similar bill passed last year, only to see it vetoed by Gov. John Carney and then fail to get enough House votes to override the veto.

The bill is part of a two part package. House Bill 2 – HA 1 would create a pot-growing and selling industry in Delaware.

Osienski has said that he hopes the growing public demand for decriminalization will help encourage Carney to sign the measure into law.

House Bill 1 would remove all penalties for possession of a personal use quantity of marijuana, except for those who are under 21. A personal use quantity would be defined as one ounce or less of leaf marijuana, 12 grams or less of concentrated cannabis, or cannabis products containing 750 milligrams or less of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. 

Under current state law, the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana by a person 21 years of age and older carries a civil penalty of $100. That provision would be eliminated under HB 1. Possession, use or consumption of recreational marijuana by anyone under 21 would still result in a civil penalty. 

Several Republican reps questioned the wisdom of the move.

Marijuana use questions

Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, asked Osienski about the impact that marijuana has on infants and fetuses.

Osienski said that there are around 88,000 deaths per year due to alcohol but none associated with marijuana. Use among children in high school decreased from 2020 to 2021.

Briggs King pointed out that use of cannabis is associated with an increased risk of car accidents and that there’s a danger of kids eating cannabis gummies because they look like candy.

Rep. Jeff Hilovsky, R-Millsboro, said that the bill would lead to increased costs for police and that more people could be disqualified from drug tests.

Osienski answered that many members of law enforcement already have some experience in the specific kind of marijuana testing that would be required. He points out hat legalizing marijuana will free up around 12,000 civil charges that the state would otherwise have to investigate and prosecute. 

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Richard Henderson, former President of the Medical Society of Delaware testified that he had concerns about the bill because of the lack of studies done on the impact of marijuana on the development of children.

Henderson said that the concentration of THC in marijuana today is three times what it was 30 years ago and that three longitudinal studies show that marijuana use has a detrimental impact on brain development.

Osienski asked Henderson what level of exposure would lead to the type of brain damage mentioned in the studies and Henderson said he isn’t sure.

Helping propel House Bill 1 out of the House were Rep. William Bush, D-Cheswold, who voted against the bill in 2022 but voted for it this time around,, and Rep. Stephanie Bolden, D-Wilmington, who had been absent during voting in 2022, but voted yes Tuesday.

Also voting yes were House Minority Leader Mike Ramone, R–Pike Creek; Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman, R-Clayton; and Rep. Mike Smith, R-Pike Creek.

Osienski’s House Bill 2, which would implement taxes on marijuana, similar to those placed on alcohol. The bill’s fiscal note said creating a marijuana industry would cost $1,905,279 annually with a one- time cost of $848,571.

Creating the industry is expected to bring millions in taxes into the state, Osienski has said.

The bill has been assigned to the Senate’s Health and Social Services Committee

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