By:      Judith Cassel

On March 30, 2017, Delaware lawmakers, Rep. Helene Keeley and Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, introduced a bill to legalize recreational marijuana.  House Bill 110, the Delaware Marijuana Control Act (“HB 110”), would allow state residents to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana from in-state dispensaries.  HB 110 has fairly wide bi-partisan support with 14 legislators signing on as co-sponsors, including Republican Senator Colin Bonini.  HB 110 to legalize recreational marijuana was introduced despite Delaware’s continued struggle to get its medical marijuana program fully operational.

Under HB 110, recreational marijuana would be regulated similar to alcohol.  Recreational marijuana would only be available to persons over 21 years of age, and driving under the influence of marijuana would carry the same penalties as driving under the influence of any other substance.  In addition, recreational marijuana would not be allowed to be consumed in public places. Under HB 110, people would not be allowed to grow their own plants for personal use.  Consumers would purchase the product initially from one of 40 dispensaries permitted to sell it. These dispensaries would be required to purchase their supply of marijuana from growers and processors within Delaware.

Hoping to bring more funding to the state, HB 110 includes a hefty tax consumers will need to pay on top of the price of product.  HB 110 includes taxes to be paid by type of product with a $50 per ounce tax on marijuana flowers, a $15 per ounce tax on all other parts of the plant and a $25 tax per immature plant.   With these taxes, the proposed recreation marijuana program is estimated to generate $22 million in annual tax revenue which would help the state’s $386 million budget deficit.  Advocates of HB 110 note that the state would save an additional $22 million in prosecution costs.  HB 110 is also touted to be a big job creator in both the grower and dispensary areas as well as, curiously enough, in the tourism area.  A poll conducted by the University of Delaware found that 60% of residents in Delaware support the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Time will tell whether advocates can pull together enough bi-partisan support to push HB 110 through the Delaware legislature.