It’s time to finish hashish prohibition

Recent comments in the media by opposition leadership show a lack of understanding about the facts regarding the legalization of cannabis through House Bill 305 in Delaware. They use stale refrains and tired excuses for why the Marijuana Control Act should not be enacted to end prohibition.

First, adult-use cannabis legalization is no longer controversial. No matter how many times the opposition burps this, it is already here on the East Coast. Virginia, New York and New Jersey have new cannabis laws that are actually implemented. Maryland passed legislation to place prohibition repeal on the ballot in November, where it is expected to pass. The federal government, in a nonpartisan way, is trying to hash out the details for a national prohibition repeal. Legalization is approved of by nearly two-thirds of Delawareans, including a majority of Republicans; it is popular, hardly controversial.

Secondly, our state has been debating this issue extensively since prior to 2015, while debating HB 39, the law that decriminalized cannabis possession. There was extensive debate when Title 16 created our medical marijuana program. For eight years the opposition leadership has been saying it’s moving too fast; for eight years they have used the stall tactic; for eight years they have ignored data to oblige special interests. When the COVID-19 pandemic created a state of emergency, our governor and the legislature acted swiftly. To save the restaurant and hospitality industry, they passed HB 1 and then HB 349 to quickly amend alcohol laws to allow carryout and delivered alcohol. There was not eight years of debate; there was no concern for fetal alcohol syndrome. Alcohol was deemed “essential.” These laws were introduced and assigned to the Administrative Committee on Dec. 18, 2020, and were signed by the governor on March 23, 2021. They only needed three months to pass a law that made a deadly product more accessible – with unanimous approval.

In addition, medical marijuana was, for the first time in history, deemed an essential product. Not only were the dispensaries allowed to remain open, they were offered guidelines for delivery. Elevating cannabis to an essential product thoroughly kicked it out of the underground and solidly into the mainstream – with nonpartisan sponsorship. Every branch of our government swiftly made medical cannabis a delivered, essential product, with haste. So when I hear the opposition jawing about the speed at which this law is being enacted, I ask then: Where were you at the Governor’s Task Force meetings or the Health and Human Development meetings? The volunteer, citizen-led cannabis community has been at every meeting since it was brought up for debate many years ago. Why should people needlessly pay for a failed policy? There has been ample opportunity for input. Joe Fulgham, communications director for the House Republican Caucus, said that the act of walking bills through appropriations isn’t unusual. When Rep. Richard Collins says that “nobody is getting arrested anymore for pot,” I must point out that since the great State of Delaware decriminalized the possession of cannabis, police contact has increased 127 percent, and total cannabis filings increased from around 4,600 to 5,981. It is urgent to end the failed policy of prohibition. Delawareans’ lives are at stake as well as the future of our state.

John Sybert Vice President Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network