Advocates of a bill to legalize recreational marijuana say they feel they’ve gained traction after a town hall hosted by Gov. John Carney (D).
About 100 people showed up for the roundtable, which Carney’s office scheduled after many residents floated legalizing marijuana during his recent string of community meetings on his proposed budget.
Most of the speakers passionately told the governor about how marijuana has helped them with illnesses and how it could be an economic boon to the state.
"Someone's going to sell it, governor. I'd rather it be the state of Delaware," said Hector Ortiz, a cancer survivor from Wyoming.
Others say fully opening up the market would have benefits for those enrolled in the medical marijuana program, many who have complained about low availability of strains of the drug that help them cope with their illnesses.
Bruce Lorenz from Milford was one of the few who wants Carney to tap the breaks on moving forward with full legalization.
“We haven’t got all the answers yet and I think that decriminalization goes a long way to getting where you want to be. Commercialization of this is not a good idea,” Lorenz said.
The bill from state Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South) and Senate Majority Leader Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington East) would allow those 21 and older to buy up to an ounce of weed.
Early projections peg estimated revenues at about $22 million in the first year should state lawmakers legalize pot.
Keeley called it a side effect of the bill, but not her main focus.
Others, like Monté Ross, University of Delaware's former men's basketball coach, said they appreciate Carney's willingness to listen and that they don't view Wednesday's town hall as insincere.
“He’s someone that’s serious. He’s not going to rubber stamp anything, he’s not going to waste anyone’s time and I think he’s a smart governor and politician and he wants to listen and gather all the information,” Ross said.
Carney has repeatedly said he supports medical marijuana and the decriminalization of the drug and that he wants to see what problems the eight other states with legal markets have encountered.
A recent University of Delaware poll found 61 percent of state residents support full legalization.
It’s unclear whether or not it has the two-thirds majority needed to pass either the House or Senate.