Reconsidering Marijuana

Jim Miller

, Community

HB 110 offers Delaware a chance to be a leader in the Mid-Atlantic region

Sixty-one.

That is the percentage of Delawareans who are in favor of the state legalizing marijuana, according to a poll conducted by the University of Delaware last September.

Stats like that have gotten the attention of state legislators, who in March introduced House Bill 110, also known as the Delaware Marijuana Control Act.

If HB 110 passes into law, it will allow state residents over the age of 21 to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana at licensed dispensaries for recreational use—not just for medical purposes, as the current law specifies.

In effect, it would make Delaware the ninth state in the country to legalize marijuana. And while the First State may have missed its chance to be first to legalize, it would be the first in the Mid-Atlantic region—an important distinction that legislators say would lead to increased tourism, as it has been shown to do in other states.

Other positive economic drivers include the creation of additional jobs at dispensaries, cultivation facilities, product manufacturers and laboratories. And then there’s the estimated $22 million in tax revenues and licensing fees Delaware could collect in the first year alone.

Not a bad first step for a state that is millions of dollars in the red.

“House Bill 110 creates an entirely new industry in our state,” said Rep. Helene Keeley, the primary sponsor of the bill, during the press conference announcing the bill’s introduction.

Back in October of 2014, Out & About looked at what was going on in Colorado after the majority of voters there approved legalization in the general election of November 2012. We spoke with, among others, Rachel K. Gillette, a Colorado attorney and then-executive director of the state chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws.

“We’re going to see the benefits of [the legal market], including a safer product that is overseen by regulatory agencies and tested in certified laboratories,” Gillette said. “You don’t see the benefit of any of that when all of the control is with drug cartels, black market drug dealers, and street-level drug gangs.”
On the subject of the black market, legalization has been shown to have some positive effect on deterring crime in Colorado. A 2016 report, Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: Early Findings, compiled by the Colorado Department of Public Safety, shows that the number of marijuana arrests decreased by 46 percent between 2012 and 2014.

Moreover, the report says, “in terms of court filings, the total number of marijuana-related filings declined 81 percent between 2012 and 2015, from 10,340 to 1,954.” This includes decreases in felony filings (down 45 percent) and petty offenses (down 88 percent).

That is a lot saved in time and costs for both enforcement and the courts.

Meanwhile, the total revenue Colorado received from taxes, licenses, and fees increased from $76 million in 2014 to $135 million in 2015 to more than $200 million last year.

Quite an amount of growth, no pun intended.

Perhaps not surprisingly, polls show the majority of Colorado residents have a favorable view of legalization. In a 2016 election poll, residents were asked what kind of impact they thought legalization had on the state’s economy. Take a guess at how many said it had a positive effect…

You got it: 61 percent.

The same percentage of the population that, in Delaware, supports legalization.

Coincidence? Sure. But, the point is, despite the challenges that legalized marijuana presents, perceptions are changing, both in states looking to legalize and in those that already have.

Research indicates that the legal marijuana industry could reach $22 billion by 2020. And with each passing year, more states are making the move toward legalization.
The momentum is building across the country.

Here in the Mid-Atlantic, Delaware can lead . . . or follow.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.