Delaware Bill Would Legalize Marijuana for Recreational Use, Nullify Federal Prohibition

DOVER, Del. (Apr. 21, 2017) – A bill filed in the Delaware House would legalize marijuana for recreational use, taking a step toward blocking federal cannabis prohibition in practice in the state.

House Bill 110 (HB110) was introduced by Rep. Helene Keeley (D-South Wilmington) and 13 co-sponsors. The legislation would legalize marijuana under a tax-and-regulate system enforced at the state level. The bill reads as follows:

"In the interest of promoting individual freedom, generating revenue for education and other public purposes, and allowing law enforcement to focus on violent crime and property crimes, the General Assembly finds and declares that the personal use of marijuana should be legal for persons 21 years of age or older and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol."

Under the provisions of HB110, individuals would be permitted to use recreational marijuana if they followed these rules:

"(1) Individuals will have to show proof of age before purchasing marijuana.
(2) Selling, distributing, or transferring marijuana to minors and other individuals under the age of 21 remains illegal.
(3) Driving under the influence of marijuana remains illegal.
(4) Legitimate, taxpaying business people, not criminal actors, conduct sales of marijuana.
(5) Marijuana sold in this State will be tested, labeled, and subject to additional regulations to ensure that consumers are informed and protected."

An excise tax would be placed on lawfully sold recreational marijuana of “$50 per ounce on all marijuana flowers” as well as “$15 per ounce on all part of marijuana other than marijuana flowers and immature marijuana plants” and “$25 per immature marijuana plant.” The revenue would be placed in a Marijuana Regulation Fund to cover administration costs, with the rest of the money allocated to the Department of Health and Social Services, Department of Education, and general fund.

“House Bill 110 creates an entirely new industry in our state,” Rep. Keeley said. “As the only state in a seven-hour drive to have legalized marijuana, we would become a destination that would attract out-of-state sales, which would have a benefit to our Delaware businesses.”

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as HB110 remain perfectly lawful, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.

LEGALITY

The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970 prohibits all of this behavior. Of course, the federal government lacks any legal authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Legalization of marijuana in Delaware would remove a layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By mostly ending state prohibition, Delaware essentially sweeps away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

Delaware could join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and thwarting it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis with California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts set to join them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states earlier this month.

With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” public policy analyst Michael Boldin said.

WHAT’S NEXT?

HB110 will need to pass the House Health & Human Development Committee before it can be considered by the full House.