Some thought this year’s fight to legalize marijuana in Delaware was over after House Bill 305 failed in the General Assembly last month.
Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, has since developed new legislation – and a new strategy – that could result in a different outcome.
Newly introduced House Bills 371 and 372 would have the exact same effect as the bill that died in the House in March. The difference? It’s now two bills instead of one.
Osienski’s new approach is to pass Part A, simple legalization in HB 371, first, and subsequently pass Part B, a bill to tax and regulate the legal industry in HB 372.
Because Part A wouldn’t have any economic components, it only needs a simple majority, or 21 votes, to pass. It’s all but certain to earn those votes, seeing as 21 representatives have signed on as co-sponsors to the bill.
Even if legalization passes, Delawareans still won’t be able to go to a dispensary to purchase legal weed.
That’s a bit trickier: Part B has to do with the regulation and taxation of legal cannabis. It would tax marijuana at 15% and create the regulatory framework to allow for the cultivation and sale of the product.
Because it imposes that 15% tax, Part B will require a three-fifths vote in both chambers. That’s where it fell short in March.
Once legalization passes, Osienski believes lawmakers will have more incentive to support Part B.
“I’m hoping that is the case,” Osienski told Delaware/Town Square LIVE News. “I’ve heard some colleagues say they struggle with voting for legalization, and then they make the comment, ‘well, if it was already legalized, I’d be more likely to vote for regulation.’”
Asked why he didn’t structure the legislation in such a way in the first place, Osienski said he wanted to get it done all at once – and he came close.
“There’s no guarantee that this two-bill structure is going to be any different,” he said. “But my hopes are, it will be.”
Not one Republican voted for legalization in March.
Two lawmakers, Rep. Mike Smith, R-Pike Creek, and Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, announced at the last minute that they would not be voting on the bill. Both previously signaled support for legalization. Smith had even told colleagues and advocates that he planned to vote for the bill.
They were joined by two Democrats: Reps. Stephanie Bolden, D-Wilmington, and Bill Bush, D-Cheswold.
Spiegelman, a realtor, said he has a client who could potentially benefit from the passage of House Bill 305 and attorneys advised him to abstain from the vote. He did not elaborate.
Asked Monday if the conflict of interest would apply to simple legalization, Spiegelman said via text message, “I still have a perceived conflict of interest.”
Smith, Bolden and Bush could not be reached for comment.
House Bill 371 — simple legalization — will be heard in the House House Health & Human Development Committee Wednesday, April 13 at 11 a.m.
House Bill 372 — taxation and regulation — will be considered by the House Revenue & Finance Committee Wednesday, April 13 at 1 p.m.
While Osienski is confident he has the votes for Part A in the House and the Senate, getting them past Gov. John Carney’s desk is another question.
Carney does not support marijuana legalization, which means the whole thing could go up in smoke. Again.
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