A Tale of Two States: Rhode Island Legalizes It, Delaware Doesn't

Delaware Gov. John Carney (left) vetoed the legalization bill; Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee will sign it.

America's two smallest states are in the middle of the fight to legalize marijuana. Rhode Island and Delaware's legislatures recently passed bills to legalize it, but only one of the two governors is prepared to sign them into law. That would be Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee, who signed the bill today. In Delaware, Gov. John Carney vetoed a similar bill on May 24. Both Governors are Democrats, hence the disapointment with Carney's decision. 

Delaware NORML was outraged, but not entirely surprised, reading Gov. Carney's veto of HB 371, a bill to simply legalize the possession of one ounce of cannabis,” the group's executive director Laura Sharer commented. “Gov. Carney is a longtime opponent of reform, but we’re committed to working with lawmakers to end cannabis prohibition in Delaware. There may be enough votes to override this veto. HB 371 earned a supermajority support in both chambers. We’re urging our General Assembly to see through this process, no matter the hurdles. Delawareans should not be left to bear the unjustifiable human costs of life-altering police stops, searches and arrests for cannabis, a non-toxic plant.

“This additional delay means even more Delaware residents will have their lives upended by unnecessary and racially disparate cannabis enforcement measures, before we inevitably legalize. Now, more than ever, we must work together to end the failed policy of cannabis prohibition.”

Carney took the Republican position, stating: "I do not believe that promoting or expanding the use of recreational marijuana is in the best interests of the state of Delaware, especially our young people. Questions about the long-term health and economic impacts of recreational marijuana use, as well as serious law enforcement concerns, remain unresolved."

Smart Approaches to Marijuana rep Patrick Kennedy applauded the decision: “Today is a win for public health, the citizens of Delaware, and common sense. Political leaders in Delaware have a rich history of standing up to Big Tobacco and marijuana is simply Big Tobacco’s new marketing strategy.”

Also, in Delaware, a companion regulatory bill was defeated by one vote on May 20. Overriding HB 371 is a long shot in a state that has not overridden a Governor's veto since 1977.

Meanwhile, In Rhode Island, the legislation calls for 33 dispensaries (the state currently has three), a 20% tax on products, expungement of records and equity in licensing (25% to minorities). On May 24, bills passed by 55-16 in the House and 32-6 in the Senate.

Gov. McKee included "Adult-use Marijuana" the state budget: "Allows for controlled, phased-in introduction of retail in licenses, results in minimal net revenue in FY 2023."

With his signature, Rhode Island became the 19th U.S. to legalize cannabis, joining the rest of the Northeast, except for lone hold-out, New Hampshire.


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.