Marijuana Legalization Foes Ask Delaware Task Force For Concessions

Ron Strider

Well-Known Member
A state legislator pushing to legalize marijuana in Delaware says she's willing to give in to a series of requests from groups opposing her effort.

The state chamber says it wants protections from some of the thorny legal issues that might arise from employees abusing the drug. Other groups are calling for more time to study the finer points of how a legal marijuana industry might function in the Delaware.

"I think everyone's point is valid," said state Rep. Helene Keeley, D-South Wilmington, co-sponsor of a legalization bill and co-chair of a task force studying the issue.

"I think there is a lot of fear out there that Delaware is going to fall off the East Coast if we do this," she said. "But if we can make individuals more comfortable with the idea and roll it out maybe more slowly, then that's something we have to look at."

The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, for instance, wants strong language that would allow employers to adopt a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to the workplace.

The chamber also wants employers to be exempt from paying unemployment compensation when a worker tests positive for marijuana and is dismissed. And it wants businesses to be granted immunity from lawsuits filed by workers under the influence of marijuana who injure people or damage property while on the job.

Those items are among six concessions that would "decrease the probability of opposition among the business community," according to Timothy M. Holly, an attorney who chairs the chamber's employer advocacy and education committee.

An umbrella organization of about a dozen influential groups opposed to legalized marijuana says it wants the task force to hold more and longer meetings before issuing its final report to Gov. John Carney and the General Assembly.

The task force is slated to hold four, two-hourlong meetings before issuing its final report by Jan. 31. But longer meetings would allow task force members to ask more questions, said Cathy Rossi, vice president of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

More time to prepare a final report would allow the group to delve more deeply into some of the hotly contested issues, she said.

"We want to ensure we are hearing everything we need to hear to formulate a well-informed report," said Rossi, one of several opponents on the task force. "As much information as we can possibly receive is helpful."

Keeley said she would be willing to provide the immunity and exemptions sought by the state chamber. But she would rather see those concessions granted to employers in all cases involving chemically impaired workers, including those who have consumed alcohol and other drugs.

"I want it to be fair so that we're not just targeting cannabis but any drug that would impair someone's ability to do their job," she said.

Keeley said she is willing to discuss extending the task force's deadline to March 1.

"I'd rather do that than have the coalition come back and say we didn't give them the time," she said.

Many believe the task force's final report could bolster or sink efforts to pass legislation that would make Delaware the ninth state to legalize recreational marijuana possession and use.

The marijuana legalization bill co-sponsored by Keeley and state Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington, was voted out of a House committee last spring.

The measure never got a full vote in the chamber. Its sponsors ultimately settled for a task force to study how marijuana legalization could be implemented.

Even with the task force's final report in hand, passing a bill to legalize marijuana likely will be a tall order.

The legislation would need support from two-thirds of both the House and the Senate, a supermajority required to create new misdemeanor criminal offenses for using a fake ID to purchase marijuana. Reaching that bar would require votes from both Democrats and Republicans.

Delaware legalized medical marijuana in 2011 and decriminalized cannabis in 2015 — downgrading possession of up to 1 ounce from a criminal offense to a civil violation, like a parking ticket.

A poll conducted by the University of Delaware last year found that more than 60 percent of state residents support full legalization.

Carney has voiced his opposition to full legalization, saying Delaware should study the impact in other states before taking action. The governor has argued more time is needed to fully implement decriminalization and the state's medical marijuana law.

But he has been willing to hear from both sides of the issue, having held roundtable discussions with both supporters and opponents last spring.

All eight states that previously legalized marijuana did so through a voter referendum, something the Delaware Constitution does not allow. Last spring, Vermont became the first state to approve a recreational marijuana bill through its Legislature, a measure later vetoed by that state's Republican governor.


News Moderator: Ron Strider 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Legal marijuana opponents ask Delaware task force for concessions
Author: Scott Goss
Contact: Contact Us | Delaware Online
Photo Credit: Jason Minto
Website: The News Journal | | Delaware news
Top Bottom