Press Release

Delaware Governor John Carney Vetoes Simple Cannabis Legalization Bill; Advocates Call for an Override

May 24, 2022


Dover, DE — On Tuesday, Gov. John Carney (D) vetoed HB 371 — a bill that would legalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults 21 and older. Gov. Carney is the only Democratic governor who has vetoed a cannabis legalization bill. 

According to Civiqs polling, 71% of Delaware voters support legalization. An October 2021 Gallup poll found 68% of Americans believe marijuana use should be legal, including 83% of Democrats and 71% of independents.

“It is a true injustice that Gov. Carney has chosen to veto HB 371. This important legislation would dramatically reduce the number of police interactions, searches, and citations for cannabis possession in Delaware. We know cannabis laws are unequally enforced, and it is Black Delawareans who are disproportionately stopped, searched, and penalized for cannabis, or for the supposed smell of cannabis. After condemning the traumatic search of the DSU women’s lacrosse team in Georgia, Gov. Carney has failed to stand for justice for the same types of intrusive searches at home in Delaware by vetoing HB 371,” said Olivia Naugle, MPP’s senior policy analyst.

“We are deeply disappointed by the governor’s unwillingness to hear voters' demands on this issue. A strong majority of Delaware voters support cannabis legalization and want to see the state stop wasting resources on punishing individuals for activities that are legal in 18 other states. We call on the legislature to take immediate action to override this veto,” said Zoë Patchell, Executive Director, Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network.

HB 371 passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate by supermajority votes: 26-14 in the House and 13-7 in the Senate. Twenty-five votes would be required in the House to override a veto, and 13 would be required in the Senate. Delaware legislators have until June 30, when the legislative session ends, to override the governor’s veto.

Notably, HB 371 would not legalize or set up a regulatory framework for adult-use cannabis sales. Those details are addressed in separate legislation, HB 372. While HB 372 fell short of the 25 votes needed on the House floor, the bill sponsor, Rep. Ed Osienski (D), changed his vote from yes to no, which will allow him to have the bill reconsidered before the legislative session ends on June 30. The final vote count was 23-15 with two absences (one of whom is a cosponsor of the bill).

It is estimated that Delaware could realize more than $40 million in annual tax revenue from the regulation and taxation of legal cannabis. Furthermore, a poll conducted by the University of Delaware showed 61% of Delawareans support cannabis legalization. 

To date, 18 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older. In neighboring New Jersey, adult-use cannabis sales began in April. Several other states are building strong momentum to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2022, including Maryland, Missouri, Rhode Island, and South Dakota. 

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Founded in 1995, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is the nation’s leading cannabis policy reform organization. MPP has played a central role in passing dozens of cannabis policy reforms in states across the country, including 10 successful cannabis legalization campaigns, and also works to advance federal reforms.

Visit www.mpp.org for more information.