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Open Letter “If we are going to have a recreational marijuana use bill, can it at least be a good one”

OPINION LETTER
by Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman
Delaware’s 11th District

June 2021

Dear Editor and All Delawareans, 

One of the interesting debates in modern America right now is whether to legalize recreational marijuana use.

States that have done so point to increases in revenue; fairer drug laws; and the ability of police to utilize resources where they are better needed. Opponents of the idea are concerned about intoxicated drivers and workers as there still is no instant test for active cannabis in a person’s system; the threat of legalizing what some consider to be a gateway drug; and the danger of having an increase in the substance around children who might accidentally gain access to it.

Having heard this debate in the General Assembly before, I was persuaded to previously vote YES on a bill that eventually did not pass in 2018. Now, fast-forwarding to this year’s General Assembly, we are again faced with the question of whether to legalize recreational marijuana use.

I am sure many of you have strong opinions one way or another on some of the things I have mentioned. But, one aspect of this that is often lost in the debate is whether the bill to legalize marijuana is a well-written measure. We must ask ourselves: Will the legislation accomplish the task for which it is intended? Is it as well-suited as possible to prevent unforeseen consequences? Is it good, safe, and fair for the state and the people we serve?

The measure before the legislature – House Bill 150 – is not a well-written bill that I can vote for as I had done previously.

For the moment, let’s put aside which side of the fence you may be on as it pertains to legalization itself and specifically address the numerous concerns with the legislation as currently written:

  • The bill – in its current form – creates an ultra-competitive licensing procedure whereby an applicant’s ability to run a successful business is never questioned. In fact, the bill does not even require an applicant to submit a business plan. However, it does grant extra points in the scoring system based on the applicant’s demographics. In the name of granting licenses to what the bill refers to as “social equity applicants,” it goes even so far as to give preferential treatment to someone who has a prior conviction for the delivery of drugs. No business plan is required; But, if you have a criminal record for being a drug dealer, we will move you right to the front of the line to get a license over someone with a business plan and no prior convictions.
  • The bill – in its current form – says organized labor must be used in the construction and renovations of all facilities that will sell, grow, or test marijuana. Union labor makes up about only 25% of the state’s labor force. Regardless of your political views on organized labor, don’t you think it will cause a MASSIVE logjam to say that 75% of the labor in the state is not allowed to work on the infrastructure needed for the industry?
  • The bill – in its current form – grants wide sweeping authority to regulatory agencies to pretty much do as they please when it comes to growing marijuana. We already have too much regulatory authority invested in the bureaucracy to have their power over this industry go unchecked. For those of you on the pro-recreational marijuana side, this means an anti-marijuana governor could make the industry nearly impossible to succeed due to regulation.
  •  The bill – in its current form – has a very confusing section about being intoxicated while on the job. There are industries in which having marijuana in your system while working could be inappropriate for a variety of reasons. With how little we know about how marijuana affects one physically and mentally, do we really want – as just one logical example – brain surgeons to have marijuana in their system while at work?
  • The bill – in its current form – does not allow the three counties in Delaware to craft ordinances about the marijuana industry one way or another. Only the municipalities are granted the authority to allow or not allow marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions. So, if you wanted to open a marijuana store or farm in Delaware, the counties have no authority to allow that in their county code.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea at this point. We can have the debate about legalizing or not legalizing marijuana for recreational use based on the merits of the idea. I am happy to have that debate. I think it is a healthy debate to have. What I will not do, however, is vote for a bill that is this poorly written.

As I have been doing since the legislation was first introduced in March, I will continue to try to convince the sponsor to address these significant concerns. However, I need your help. I encourage you to contact your elected officials and ask them to make the changes necessary to HB 150 to make it safer and fairer all around.

Sincerely,

State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman

11th District

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