DOVER, Del. (AP) — Delaware Gov. John Carney on Tuesday vetoed a bill to legalize recreational possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults.
In vetoing the measure, Carney reiterated his previously expressed concerns about legalizing recreational pot — concerns that did not deter fellow Democrats from pushing the legislation through the General Assembly.
“I recognize the positive effect marijuana can have on people with certain health conditions, and for this reason, I continue to support the medical marijuana industry in Delaware,” Carney said in returning the project. of law at the State House. “I have supported the decriminalization of marijuana because I agree that individuals should not be imprisoned solely for the possession and private use of a small amount of marijuana – and today, thanks to the decriminalization law of Delaware, they are not.
“That said, I do not believe that promoting or expanding the use of recreational marijuana is in the best interest of the State of Delaware, particularly our youth. Questions about the impacts to long-term health and economics of recreational marijuana use, as well as serious law enforcement concerns, remain unresolved.
Carney’s veto comes just days after legislation to establish a state-run marijuana industry in Delaware failed to clear the State House for the second time. The Democratic-controlled chamber voted 23-15 on Thursday to approve the bill, which fell short of the required supermajority by two votes. The proposal requires a three-fifths majority in both the House and Senate because it creates a new tax, consisting of a 15% levy on retail marijuana sales.
Last week’s vote came two months after a similar measure failed in the House in a 23-14 vote, and just hours after Carney’s office received the legalization bill. complementary. Without legalization, the creation of a state-run pot industry is a moot point.
It’s unclear whether Democratic lawmakers will attempt to override Carney’s veto, which would be a rare occurrence. The last time Delaware lawmakers held a vote to override a veto was in 1990. The last time they succeeded was in 1977, when the House and Senate voted to override the government. of the time. Pete du Pont’s veto of the state budget bill.
Representative Ed Osienski, a Newark Democrat and lead sponsor of both bills, said in a statement that he was “deeply disappointed” with Carney’s decision and would reconsider his options.
Osienski carved the legalization and industry-building proposals into two separate bills in late March after the House rejected broader legislation that sought to do both. This paved the way for the passage of the legalization bill, which did not include any tax provisions and therefore only required a simple majority.
The legalization bill cleared the Democratic-controlled Senate without Republican support. Sen. Bruce Ennis of Smyrna was the only Democrat to join GOP lawmakers in opposition. Two Democrats, including Chairman Pete Schwartzkopf, voted against the legalization bill in the House, along with 12 of 15 GOP representatives. Ennis and Schwartzkopf are both retired state troopers.
Proponents of a state-run marijuana industry argue that it would create jobs, increase state coffers and reduce the illegal black market.
Opponents argue that legalization and state-licensed cultivation and sales would lead to increased marijuana use among teens and young adults, expose business owners to liability, and lead to more deaths and injuries. on the roads. They also say that establishing a state-run market with a 15% tax on retail sales would do little to eliminate illegal sales.
The Associated Press reported earlier this year that legalization had done little to discourage black market sales in California, and that some licensees were concurrently partaking in an attempt to make a profit. The California governor has now offered a temporary tax cut for the marijuana industry to help struggling businesses.
Currently, recreational marijuana use is legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia.