Marijuana advocacy groups who worked to help legalize marijuana in Delaware say there is still work to do.
That includes urging Attorney General Kathy Jennings to drop all pending cannabis offenses, making sure that testing positive for pot won’t get someone’s parole or probation revoked, allowing marijuana to be grown at home and bird-dogging the process and progress of regulations that will govern the state’s new legal, regulated and taxable marijuana industry.
The Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network and Marijuana Policy Project both worked to help House Bill 1, which legalized marijuana, and House Bill 2, which creates a marijuana industry, over the finish line.
Personal, recreational use of marijuana has been legal since April 23, when Gov. John Carney allowed the bills to become law without signing them.
The state now is writing regulations to allow the growth and sale of marijuana. The first licenses to do so are expected to be released a year from now.
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Zoë Patchell, executive director of the Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network, says the fight isn’t over.
“Attorney General Kathy Jennings should dismiss all the current pending cannabis offenses and we’re calling on her to do so,” Patchell said
The Cannabis Advocacy Network hasn’t reached out yet to the Department of Justice, said Mat Marshall, public information officer for the department.
“I assume they’re referring to personal use cannabis possession as contemplated by House Bill 1. If so, there’s really nothing for us to dismiss,” he said. “The AG announced when she entered office that she would not prosecute misdemeanor marijuana possession.”
She outlines that in this memo.
“In practice, first-offense marijuana possession cases have been referred to the civil citation program and second/subsequent offenses have been referred to treatment-based alternatives to prosecution,” Marshall said. “HB 1 effectively ends the practice of diversion because it ends the practice of arresting/citing for personal use but otherwise we don’t have pending cases to speak of.”
The department has been outspoken that its resources should be directed toward violent criminals and not toward low-level drug offenders, “which is part of why the AG has supported marijuana legalization,” Marshall said.
Olivia Naugle, a senior policy analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project, said there are some areas of law, particularly around the criminal justice aspects, that her group would like to see addressed by the legislature.
“Things like reducing the penalty for public smoking, providing that the odor of cannabis isn’t grounds for search, making sure that testing positive for cannabis isn’t grounds for revoking someone’s parole or probation,” Naugle said.
State law also doesn’t allow home cultivation, but most states who legalize marijuana do, Naugle said.
The advocates hope it’ll be easier to update Delaware’s marijuana laws to address some of the issues they have.
“We have an advantage, I think in future years,” she said. “It was a hurdle getting at least the regulatory piece of legalization passed because it included taxes and fees. We had to have a supermajority in both the House and the Senate.”
With new tweaks of the law, she said, “whether it’s a standalone bill taking up some of these provisions or a big package, we hopefully won’t have such a high hurdle.”
Patchell said that some states have done legalization better than others, and they hope that Delaware will follow the successful states as it writes regulations.
“We see some states like Colorado and Oregon that got it right and put consumers first with results that have significantly underscored the illicit market,” Patchell said. “And then we see some states like California, who got it terribly wrong by not focusing on what consumers needed and listening to people that were severely out of touch with what that market should look like.
“If the regulations aren’t written in a way to address the needs of consumers and provide a similar level of products and service for the consumers, then that market will fail.”
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