Delaware Governor John Carney surprised cannabis advocates Tuesday when he announced a veto of legislation that would have decriminalized possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and made adult use de facto legal in the state.
“I do not believe that promoting or expanding the use of recreational marijuana is in the best interests of the state of Delaware, especially our young people,” wrote Gov. Carney in his veto statement. “Questions about the long-term health and economic impacts of recreational marijuana use, as well as serious law enforcement concerns, remain unresolved.”
Up until now, Gov. Carney has not made either positive or negative public statements about the legalization of adult use cannabis, even while Republican opponents made strong anti-cannabis comments on the campaign trail.
The legislation, HB371, had been passed as part of a two-step move to separate decriminalization from legalizing sales. This effort passed with a three-fifths majority in both legislative chambers. The sales legalization effort, HB372, failed in the House by one vote earlier this week.
As recently as last week, advocates had expected that Gov. Carney would respect the supermajority and take no action on HB371, which would have led to enactment of the bill, according to the state constitution. But a veto in Delaware has particular force, said Laura Sharer, executive director of Delaware NORML.
A legislative veto override is, “not something that’s happened in Delaware since the late 70s. Clearly lawmakers are weighing their options,” said Sharer, who still holds out hope for legislators to rally the votes.
“It’s not over yet.”