Delaware Lawmakers Propose Legalizing Marijuana - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware Lawmakers Propose Legalizing Marijuana

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DOVER, Del. -- Delaware lawmakers have proposed legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana for people who are 21 years old or older.

The bill was unveiled on Thursday at Legislative Hall in Dover. If passed, the bill would create a commissioner to tax, regulate, and distribute marijuana in Delaware, which has already legalized medical marijuana as treatment for certain types of illnesses and decriminalized possession of a small amount of pot.

Supporters said the legislation reflects changing attitudes about marijuana, particularly among younger generations, and will help create an industry that could bring in $22 million during its first full year of operation.

"Whether it happens now, five years from now, trust me. It's going to happen so we might as well do it now while there's money to be made," said Rep. Charles "Trey" Paradee (D-Cheswold).

Delaware Chief Defender Brendan O'Neill said legalization would reduce the amount of money and time spent on prosecuting many low level drug crimes in the state.

"Not only would we lighten our caseload, by eliminating this category of cases, so would the prosecutors and so would the court system."

Opponents have argued legalizing marijuana might increase the number impaired drivers on Delaware roads and potentially lead more people into harmful drug habits that result from pot use.

"I don't want to send more intoxicated people down the road, aiming a 3,000 pound projectile at my family or yours," said Sen. Dave Lawson (R-Marydel).

The bill would not allow marijuana be consumed in public or allow private individuals to grow their own pot. Private sellers would need to be licenses, which would carry a $5,000 application fee and $10,000 biennial fee for each license, according to the legislation.

The legislation would also create an excise tax on marijuana at $50 per ounce on all marijuana flowers, $15 per ounce on all other parts of marijuana plans, and $25 per immature marijuana plant.

Initial funds would be used to pay for administration within the marijuana commission. Remaining funds would be used for education, prisoner re-entry programs, evidence-based programs for drug abuse rehabilitation programs, and education on health safety risks of drug abuse.

Since the bill creates new penalties related to sale of marijuana and identification requirements during sales, the House and Senate would need to approve it by two-thirds majorities.

Gov. John Carney has said he is not ready to sign a legalization bill and wants to see the results of decriminalization and a fully established medical marijuana system. A spokesman also said the governor wants to see the long-term results in states with legalized marijuana.

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