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Delaware lawmakers won’t release report on marijuana legalization

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A final report on issues surrounding marijuana legalization in Delaware failed to win a task force’s approval for its release Wednesday, but a Democratic lawmaker says the report will be made available to the General Assembly anyway.

After lengthy discussion about a lack of details in the 16-page report, task force members voted to release it, subject to adding an appendix of materials submitted to the panel and a final meeting next week to address technical corrections.

But only 12 members of the 25-member panel voted to release the report, short of a majority. All state cabinet agency representatives on the task either abstained from voting or were absent. Democratic Gov. John Carney has said he opposes legalization.

Task force leaders and legislative staff nevertheless thought the report had been released until reporters pointed out the vote tally.

“I’m not sure how we counted wrong,” legislative attorney Deborah Gottschalk told task force co-chair Rep. Helene Keeley.

Keeley, a Wilmington Democrat who is the chief sponsor of a stalled legalization bill, initially insisted that approval of only a majority of members present was needed. She then said she had agreed to a vote only at the request of fellow panel members, and that it was nonbinding.

“There were several members who asked for an official vote to be taken. I agreed to it. I stand by my word,” she said.
But during Wednesday’s meeting, Keeley never told fellow panel members that the vote was merely symbolic.

“I don’t believe the question was asked,” said Keeley, who acknowledged staging the vote knowing that it was nonbinding.
Some task force members apparently thought otherwise.

“I thought it had meaning to it,” said Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton. He made the motion to release the report subject to final technical revisions next week.

“If my motion failed, then they don’t have to call the meeting next week. That’s what it was for,” Smyk said.

Keeley nevertheless said the panel will meet next week, and that the report will be made available to fellow lawmakers, even though Wednesday was the final reporting deadline and there was no consensus to release the report or to extend the reporting deadline.

“Whether it is officially released from committee or not …, then so be it,” she said.

The resolution establishing the task force mandates that the panel study the adoption of a model for regulation and taxation of recreational marijuana. The task force also is charged with compiling a report containing “actionable solutions” to issues surrounding legalization and ensuring that a final report is submitted to lawmakers and Carney.

“Official action by the task force, including making findings and recommendations, requires the approval of a majority of the members of the task force,” the resolution states.

Keeley insisted that the report does not contain any findings or recommendations, and therefore does not require any consensus among task force members.

Cathy Rossi, vice president of public and governmental affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, which opposes legalization, said she was unaware that Wednesday’s vote was nonbinding.

“I would absolutely consider releasing the report to be an official action,” she added.
Rossi also said Keeley’s contention that the report contains no findings or recommendations suggests that it does not meet the mandate of the resolution.

“I think that’s a valid question to ask,” she said.