On May 24, Delaware governor John Carney vetoed a bill — passed by super-majorities of both houses of the state’s legislature — which would have legalized possession of small quantities of marijuana by people over 21.
Carney’s justification: “I do not believe that promoting or expanding the use of recreational marijuana is in the best interests of the state of Delaware, especially our young people.”
Yep. Even though the bill applies only to those over 21 years of age, Carney felt compelled to play “for the chilllllllllldren” card.
It’s easy to see why, as the rest of his justification doesn’t hold water, either.
The bill wouldn’t have “expanded” the use of marijuana. Anyone who wants to use marijuana can already get it without much effort. Including the kiddos. It’s a common plant that’s easy to grow almost anywhere — it’s called “weed” for a reason — and nearly a century of “war” on it hasn’t dented its popularity. Quite the opposite. Fifty years ago, 4% of Americans admitted to having tried marijuana. As of last year, that number was 49%.
Nor, unlike most state recreational legalization schemes, would the Delaware bill have “promoted” the use of marijuana by creating a state licensing regime relying on big sales numbers to generate tax revenue. In fact, sales would have remained entirely illegal absent further legislation.
If anything, Carney’s veto, along with the continued prohibition of sales, actively promotes the distribution of marijuana to those under 21.
If it’s illegal to possess marijuana, and illegal to sell marijuana, heck, what’s one more “crime” to the “criminal?” He’ll sell it to anyone with the money to buy it. He’s already taking the risk, so why forego the additional profits?
If it’s legal to possess marijuana, and legal to sell marijuana, but only to those over 21, at least some sellers will decide to avoid those younger customers. They’re no longer at legal risk as long as they only sell to adults.
Prohibition-era speakeasies didn’t care what ages their customers were. They were headed for the hoosegow if they got caught anyway. Modern bars and liquor stores demand ID because they’re good to go so long as the guy who bought that mojito or pint of bourbon was over 21, and in trouble if he wasn’t.
The kids will still get marijuana and booze either way, of course. I probably drank far more between the ages of 17 and 21 than I have between the ages of 40 and 55. I doubt today’s kids are, on average, any smarter about that, or any less capable of acquiring it, than I was at that age.
Why did Carney really veto the bill? Well, he also mentions “serious law enforcement concerns.”
“War” on marijuana means more police jobs and bigger budgets for police departments. And perp-walking a harmless citizen over a bag of weed is much safer than, say, saving a school full of children from a gunman. Officer safety is the first priority, followed by job security. Back the Blue!
Leave the kids out of your police union featherbedding schemes, Governor Carney.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.