Will he or won’t he? Maybe it doesn’t matter?
Legislation legalizing adult use of cannabis – but not sales – arrives on Delaware Gov. John Carney’s desk soon and the state’s chief executive has given few indications on whether he plans to support, veto, or ignore the bill.
Meanwhile, Gov. Carney’s recent Covid diagnosis might not be helping his decision-making ability. Vaccinated and double-boosted, he says he’s “feeling well.”
After passing the House the week before, the Delaware Senate passed HB371 with a 13-7 vote last Thursday evening. A compromise from previous efforts, this version focused on decriminalizing cannabis use, putting taxes and regulation into another bill, HB372, which has yet to be called for a floor vote. Session ends on June 30.
“He’s been very not supportive of the legislation but he’s never gone on the record and said the ‘V’ word. Even with debates with opposing candidates who have used that word,” said Zoë Pachell, executive director of the Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network. The “V” word she’s referring to is “veto”.
In Delaware the governor has ten days after a bill is transmitted from the legislature – although state records are unclear, that doesn’t seem to have happened yet – to take action. He can either sign it, making it law, veto it, sending it back to the legislature, or ignore it for the ten day period, which would turn it into law anyway.
Delaware first legalized medical cannabis use in July 2011, and opened its first medical dispensary in June 2015. Today the state only permits “non-profit” compassion centers to distribute cannabis, there are currently six in the state.
The decriminalization measure under discussion does not legalize home grow or sales, but it does allow gifting up to one ounce of weed – or possession of any kind up to one ounce. Yet, it’s not clear how residents would legally obtain cannabis to gift.
The state’s medical cannabis industry is relatively small: only 2% of residents have a medical card. 20,630 medical patient cards were issued or renewed in 2021 and the state reported $1,099,878 in cannabis revenue for the fiscal year as of October 2021.
Patchell pointed out that even if Gov. Carney vetoes the decriminalization bill, HB371 is still likely to become law, since it passed with more than a three-fifths vote in both houses. You need a three-fifths majority to override a veto.
Delaware, with only 989,948 residents, has a lot of room for direct citizen action, which Patchell plans to use to push Carney to at least ignore the decriminalization bill, if not sign it.
“We have conducted outreach activities, we’re door knocking, phone banking and having a citizen lobby day,” said Patchell. “We’re wishing Gov. Carney well, but we hope he signs this bill soon.”