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Delaware Senate Green-Lights Bill Removing Penalties For Adult Marijuana Possession

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By Nina Zdinjak

About a week after Delaware’s House of Representatives gave the green light to a bill that would legalize cannabis possession and sharing between adults, the state Senate reiterated the House’s decision and approved the measure. HB 371, which passed in a 13-7-1 vote, legalizes the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 or older, reported NORML.

The move comes on the heels of HB 372, also sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski (D) and approved Tuesday by a House Appropriations Committee and is now heading to the floor. This measure aims to set up a specific regulatory framework for the recreational cannabis market.

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“I’m looking forward to continuing working on this and I’m not really going to rest until we do have a legal regulated market,” Osienski said, as reported by 47 ABC.

Tom Donovan, a Delaware attorney told the outlet that this progress can mostly be attributed to social inequity Delaware residents face when it comes to law enforcement and cannabis possession. “Where you were born, where you live, what street you live on shouldn’t determine whether you’ll be a part of the criminal justice system,” Donovan said.

NORML executive director Erik Altieri praised the passage of HB 371. “We applaud the Delaware legislature for passing this important legislation. The overwhelming majority of Delaware residents support ending their state’s failed prohibition on marijuana, and Governor Carney should respect the will of the people and immediately sign this bill into law.”

Earlier attempts to legalize cannabis faced technical obstacles in the Senate which needs a 3/5 majority to approve any proposal that creates taxes. That’s why Osienski decided to split the package into two separate pieces of legislation — one that only legalizes cannabis possession for adults (and needs a simple majority to pass) and the other that deals with retail and regulatory issues.

marijuana nug
Photo by Kirill Vasikev / EyeEm/Getty Images

What If Regulatory Bill Fails?

The question is, what happens if HB 372 does not get approved?

State Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Dover) reiterated the views of other Republicans… the passage of  HB 371 could lead to undesired consequences, writes Delaware Online. The main concern is that the bill would legalize cannabis without any real regulation.

RELATED: Delaware: Marijuana Legalization Bill Passes House Committee

“We might as well call this ‘encourage illegal behavior act,’” Bonini said. “Because where are you going to get it? A drug dealer.”

Sen. Trey Paradee, a sponsor of the legalization bill, shared the same concern.  If HB 372 doesn’t get approved by the end of the session, Paradee said he would ask Carney to veto HB 371.

This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.



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Delaware House Rejects Cannabis Legalization Bill Despite Majority Votes

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By Jelena Martinovic

The Delaware House of Representatives spurned a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana sales on Thursday, reported Marijuana Moment.

HB 372, which would set up a specific regulatory framework for the recreational cannabis market, received 23 votes in support and 15 against. The bill did not advance, however, because it failed to get a three-fifths supermajority needed to be approved.

Congress To Vote On Nationwide Marijuana Legalization In December
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RELATED: Delaware Senate Green-Lights Bill Removing Penalties For Adult Marijuana Possession

The basic legislation, HB 371, which requires a simple majority to pass and would allow adults 21 and older to possess and share up to an ounce of cannabis, was sent to the governor’s desk last week.

Both legislations are sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski (D). He opted for a two-track approach to reform after a comprehensive bill that would have accomplished both goals was killed when it fell short of the required three-fifths supermajority vote on the floor last month.

The legislation “creates the legal framework to license and regulate a new industry that will create well-paying jobs for Delawareans while striking a blow against the criminal element which profits from the thriving illegal market for marijuana in our state,” Osienski said.

Oslenski’s Efforts Still Matter

Osienski’s idea that advancing non-commercial legalization through the legislature first would nudge colleagues to approve the complementary bill that provides for a commercial marijuana market was struck down on Thursday.

Once he realized that the measure was poised to fail, Osienski switched his own “yes” vote to “no” to secure the right to once again call for the measure’s reconsideration.

RELATED: Delaware: Marijuana Legalization Bill Passes House Committee

Even though the cannabis legalization process in Delaware has been bumpy and complex, the trajectory seems to be in the right direction.

“It is imperative that HB 371 be signed into law so the consequences of prohibition can cease immediately,” said Jax James, NORML’s state policy manager. “The legalization of cannabis possession, the creation of a regulated market, and provisions from the Justice Reinvestment Funds will begin the process of reversing decades of discriminatory, harmful, and fundamentally unfair cannabis laws.”

This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.



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Marijuana regulation bill fails in Delaware House – Cannabis Business Executive

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Weed harassment by Georgia cops could help pass legalization in Delaware

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Georgia officers searched women’s lacrosse team bus without cause but found nothing, now Delaware politicians are condemning the stop.

A viral video of Georgia cops harassing the Delaware State University women’s lacrosse team has University officials calling for a federal civil rights investigation into the incident—and could pressure Delaware Gov. John Carney into signing a pending cannabis legalization bill. 

Related

Delaware House passes legalization bill, but obstacles remain

Delaware State University is one of five historically Black colleges and universities with a women’s lacrosse team. The team was recovering after a road trip to Florida for a tournament, and just wanted to get home safely.

On April 20th, the team made its way home on a chartered bus. The bus pulled over by Liberty County sheriff’s deputies while driving north on Interstate 95.

Officers claimed the bus was illegally riding in the wrong lane. The deputies then stepped on the bus and announced they would be searching players’ bags. It was unclear why a simple traffic stop would necessitate a search of the entire luggage compartment. 

DSU women's lacrosse team photo (Delaware State University)
DSU women’s lacrosse team photo (Delaware State University)

A video taken by one of the players captured the chilling orders given by the deputy in charge, at the front of the bus: 

“We’re gonna check y’alls luggage. I’m not looking for a little bit of marijuana…. But I’m pretty sure your chaperones are gonna be disappointed if we find it… So if there is something that is questionable, please tell me now. Because if we find it, guess what? We’re not gonna be able to help you. You are in the state of Georgia. Marijuana is still illegal in the state of Georgia. Anything that you can put marijuana in, maybe a device for you to smoke it… a scale, anything.”

Georgia Police

Nothing illegal was found during the search. 

Shortly after the incident, Sheriff Bowman claimed that no personal items had been searched. But police body cam footage directly contradicted that statement.

Further public footage captured deputies rifling through the team’s bags themselves and with a K9 unit. They even searched through an unopened gift from one player’s family, which turned out to be jewelry.

After news of the incident became public, Sheriff Bowman claimed that his deputies followed protocol and that they had probable cause to search luggage after an alert from a K9.

Tim Jones, the Black male driver of the bus, was not ticketed for the alleged moving violation.

An all too familiar feeling

Discussion of racial profiling began to resonate online as video of the stop went viral in early May. 

Anderson wrote in DSU’s The Hornet, that the “majority of the team members had never experienced an encounter with the police, making this a traumatic incident for them.”

“I’m sitting there, and I’m trying to stay calm, but at that moment, I’m so upset and scared and frustrated at what is happening to us,” said coach Pamella Jenkins. Coach Jenkins, the driver Jones, and players Saniya Craft, and Emily Campanelli all told The New York Times about the traumatic experience.

Craft, a relative of Elijah McClain said: “I’ve realized what happens when police take advantage of their privilege and compromise their job. After seeing the police brutally murder my relative, I was petrified for what would happen to my teammates and I.”

“I think the biggest surprise was seeing the dogs immediately pulled out regardless of what the citation was going to be,” said Campanelli, one of the team’s few non-Black players. “That shows the immediate effects of driving while Black, especially through southern states and it makes you wonder how many people this happens to on a daily basis and how many people experience this worse than us.”

On April 20th the team bus was pulled over while driving north on Interstate 95 after a tournament. Officers claimed the bus was illegally riding in the wrong lane, then stepped on the bus and announced they will be checking players’ bags.

Screenshot of Georgia deputies searching women's lacrosse team for cannabis. (Delaware Online)
Screenshot of Georgia deputies searching women’s lacrosse team for cannabis. (Delaware Online)

TikTok influencer “@TheLuncheonLawyer” spread the word in a viral video breaking down all the legal issues with the stop and search. “The fourth amendment protects us from unreasonable search and seizure,” she said.

In a video with 14,000 likes and almost 400 comments, she continued: “The officers do not indicate that they smell marijuana. They certainly don’t see any marijuana or any other narcotics because we know they would have said that, and snatched that up immediately… This officer has absolutely no reason to begin investigating whether there are drugs on the vehicle based on alleged traffic violation from the driver.”

There will be consequences

Tony Allen, President of Delaware State University, said that DSU plans to file a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice over the incident. Allen condemned the “misconduct and intimidation” that “humiliated players” by the Georgia deputies. Delaware lawmakers called the incident “deeply disturbing” and said they “stand firmly with the DSU community” in a statement last Monday.

Delaware’s Congressional representatives, Sen. Tom Carper, Sen. Chris Coons and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester all called what they saw of the stop “deeply disturbing.” They all “strongly support” President Allen’s decision to “go wherever the evidence leads” with their help. Delaware Gov. Carney also spoke in support of the lacrosse players. 

Sheriff claims there was cause for search

“I do not exercise racial profiling, allow racial profiling or encourage racial profiling,” Sheriff Bowman told reporters. The sheriff added that based on what he already knows about the stop he believes it was legal.

Bowman is Black, and said his office will formally review the stop. He also claimed that deputies found drugs after stopping similar vehicles earlier that morning. The school’s president said he had a cordial talk with Sheriff Bowman, but the two are still not on the same page regarding the incident.

Shortly after the incident, the sheriff claimed that no personal items were searched. But body cam footage directly contradicted that statement.

The questionable stop, the video, and the outrage from Delaware have put Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman on the defensive.

The now public video shows that deputies rifled through the team’s bags themselves and with a K9 unit. They even searched through an unopened gift from one player’s family, which turned out to be jewelry.

This incident could push legalization forward in Delaware

external photo of the brick Delaware capitol building, lit by elegant lampposts at sunset
Will Delaware be the next East Coast state to legalize cannabis? This incident could push lawmakers forward. (Vasanth/Adobe Stock)

The timing of the incident could actually help move legalization forward in Delaware. 

Last Thursday (May 12), the Delaware Senate finally passed HB371. The bill eliminates all penalties for the possession and gifting of one ounce or less of cannabis. The new bill will also forbid law enforcement from warrantless searches on otherwise law-abiding adults if the only probable cause is the odor of cannabis. 

The bill had already been passed by the Delaware House, so Senate passage sent the legalization measure to Gov. Carney’s desk. 

Related

4 New Jersey weed laws that need to change now

Carney, a Democrat, has in the past been very public about his personal opposition to cannabis legalization. But he has been quiet about whether he would veto HB371—and the measure still sits on his desk unsigned. 

Right before voting on the bill last week, the state Senate approved a joint resolution with the House to condemn the actions of the Liberty County Sheriffs deputies, and asked Georgia’s General Assembly to address the issue. Pretty ballsy move for the second smallest state in the nation.

Now all eyes are on Gov. Carney, who must decide whether to allow or reject legalization in his state at a moment when the injustices allowed by prohibition are on stark display. “Carney may be faced with a hard examination of his ‘oppose’ position on marijuana reform in light of the deservedly overwhelming public support for the women at DSU,” wrote Chris Goldstein, a NORML regional organizer and close follower of Northeast cannabis politics. 

Leafly will continue to report on this incident and Delaware State University’s complaint with the DOJ.

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Mehka King

Mehka King has spent his professional career as a journalist and content creator. Since 2017, he has interviewed cannabis activists, politicians, business leaders, athletes, and entertainers about their views on cannabis for CashColorCannabis.com network.

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