Delaware legislators working on new measure to legalize pot

Delaware lawmakers will consider legalizing recreational marijuana during this legislative session. (Brennan Linsley/AP Photo)

Delaware lawmakers will consider legalizing recreational marijuana during this legislative session. (Brennan Linsley/AP Photo)

Legislators in Delaware are working to draft a new marijuana legalization bill — just six months after other efforts failed.

Last year, a measure to legalize recreational marijuana fell just four votes short of passing in the Delaware House after several Democrats abstained from voting.

Despite the creation of a task force to address concerns about public safety and distribution issues, some legislators still were anxious about the effects of legalization.

The prime sponsors of that bill, state Rep. Helene Keeley and state Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, both Wilmington Democrats, did not seek re-election this year.

Now, state Sen. Trey Charles Paradee will be one of the sponsors on a new marijuana legalization bill, which he hopes to introduce during this legislative session.

As he and the other sponsors seek out the opinions and concerns of stakeholders, Paradee said he’s not ready to lay out the specifics of his bill.

But he said Delaware is in a good position.

“We have another year’s worth of information from other states to look at. There are states that have done things well and some states that have had some problems,” said Paradee.

“We’re going to take the next several weeks and make sure everyone who has an opinion or idea has an opportunity to talk about it, and hopefully we can put together something we can get passed and would be good for Delaware,” said Paradee, who moved from the House to the Senate this year.

“The reason I decided to take on this task is I want to make sure it’s done right. As a parent, I’m concerned about how children could be affected and where tax revenues might go, so I want to make sure we get it right the first time.”

This year, with 15 new legislators and two House members moving to the Senate — some identifying as progressive Democrats — advocates hope marijuana legalization stands a better chance of success. Four representatives who voted against last year’s bill and one who abstained from voting did not seek re-election. Another opponent has been elected to the state Senate.

Paradee said he can’t predict which way the vote will go but believes the public is behind him.

“I believe if this was put up for a public referendum, if we had that in Delaware, I think this would have passed four or five years ago. The overwhelming number of people want it, people are starting to understand cannabis better, and starting to figure out it’s far less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes. The world is changing and it’s inevitable,” he said.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.