Delaware Marijuana Legalization Efforts Being Revived April 2022

Where's Weed

Published on May 2, 2022

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It's no secret that legal cannabis is a very popular concept. Over the past two decades, we've seen more than half of the states in the union legalize some form of cannabis, with 18 states and U.S. territories allowing for recreational use and another 38 establishing some type of medical cannabis program. Those numbers, however, might soon be increasing! 

Despite a failed push for Delaware marijuana legalization just last year, state-level legislators are back at it with a new bill and new approach for 2022 to get Delaware marijuana legislation over the finish line this time around. Thankfully, we here at Where's Weed will break it all down for you in detail! 

In this article, we'll go in-depth on the interesting history of cannabis in the Diamond State, the important Delaware medical marijuana laws, and the rules you'll need to know to stay out of trouble. We'll break down the new two-pronged approach to the recent legalization efforts and exactly how and why the last legalization effort flamed out and can't make it over the finish line. 

So without too much further delay, let's get right into it! 

The History of Legal Cannabis in Delaware

Unlike some other states, we've covered here at Where's Weed, Delaware has had a pretty straightforward relationship with legal cannabis for a long time. Just like pretty much every other state in the union, all forms of cannabis were illegal within state borders thanks to Reefer-Madness era propaganda and pseudoscience. It was illegal and carried severe criminal penalties for even just simple possession.

Up until 2011, that is. That was until a major push for medical marijuana and criminalization moved the cannabis culture forward in the Diamond State. 

Progress in the Right Direction

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Thanks to the passage of a 2011 bill, a medical marijuana program was established for in-state residents. Then-Governor Jack Markell approved a bill that would forever link medical marijuana and Delaware together, allowing patients 18 and older with "certain serious or debilitating conditions" to use and possess up to six ounces of cannabis legally. And the program has been a clear success in the more than ten years since it was established. 

Delaware's program grossed about $1 million in revenue in 2021 alone, with only about 20k registered patients in the whole state. It's clear that those part of Delaware's program aren't afraid to splash the cash on the medicine they need. 

Shortly after the passage of the 2011 medical cannabis bill, Delaware legislators took another huge step forward to removing the negative and outdated stigma often associated with cannabis by decriminalizing cannabis possession altogether. Thanks to the passage of HB 39, possession of up to an ounce of cannabis is only deemed a civil violation that carries a small $100 fine. Prior to this bill, possessing up to an ounce of cannabis would cost someone a hefty $575 fine and put them behind bars for up to three months. In 2019 legislators took an even more progressive approach, amending the bill to expand the scope of decriminalized cannabis to those under 21. 

These progressive and forward-thinking steps leave many scratching their heads and wondering why recreational legalization efforts in the state of Delaware have found such a hard time gaining traction over the years. That approach already seems to be paying off as well, with both bills passing the House committees and moving on to the next step already! 

A History of Failed Recreational Legalization Efforts in Delaware

Following the successful establishment of the medical program and decriminalization efforts in Delaware, the obvious next step was for recreational legalization. That step, however, has proven harder for legislators in the state to take successfully. 

A legalization push in 2017 flamed out due to a lack of votes in the legislature and concerns about costs, a 2020 bill failed due to a lack of votes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and a 2021 legalization effort fell short after failing to pass the state House by a mere two votes. So close, yet just not enough to push things over the line.

However, when it comes to Delaware marijuana legalization in 2022, things are shaping up to look quite a bit different. That's due to a unique two-pronged approach that legislators are taking this time around! 

Delaware Legalization in 2022

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This time around, Delaware legislators are confident about their chances of getting a recreational legalization bill over the finish line in 2022. This time around, legislators are introducing two separate bills. One of the bills would simply legalize the possession and sharing of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older. The other bill would create specific regulations for cannabis commerce that largely resemble the prior, House-defeated bill. 

It's a similar approach to what Vermont did to legalize, passing a noncommercial legalization bill in 2018 and then following it up with a separate bill to tax and regulate sales two years later. 

For politicians who don't want to have their vote on record to progress the legalization of cannabis, this is a simple workaround. It gives them the ability to vote no on the bill legalization bill, which already seems to have the votes to pass, but then later vote in favor of taxing and profiting from something that's already been legalized. Outside of political terms, it's them having their cake and eating it too!

It's an interesting workaround that may prove to be the thing that helps legalize recreational use in Delaware nearly a decade after decriminalization efforts and the establishment of their medical program. We here at Where's Weed highly recommend keeping a close eye on this one and seeing how it progresses, especially if you're a resident of the Diamond State!    

What's Next for Delaware Cannabis

So is marijuana legal in Delaware? Well, sort of. While a medical cannabis program has been established, a recreational market is clearly on the way, and possession of cannabis has been decriminalized in the Diamond State, it's still technically illegal under the letter of federal law.

Due to the patchwork nature of legal weed here in the U.S., cannabis is slowly being legalized on a state-by-state basis with no change to the federal scheduling classification. Cannabis is still technically illegal everywhere in the U.S. But, as we all know, that's not the reality of the situation in a legal state. 

However, with the Biden administration in the White House, change at the federal level is looking unlikely anytime soon. For now, the best thing to do to progress the cannabis culture is to support state-level legalization and decriminalization efforts, along with pushes for the fed to deschedule or reschedule cannabis from a schedule 1 substance to a schedule 2 and hope that state-level approaches to medical cannabis legalization can be pushed over the finish line in 2022!

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