Gubernatorial candidate Bonini says he supports legal pot


DOVER — State Sen. Colin Bonini on Thursday became the first gubernatorial candidate this year to come out in favor of legalizing marijuana.

Sen. Bonini, a Dover Republican, made the statement on the Senate floor during a discussion on probation before judgment for misdemeanor marijuana offenses. Citing recent legislation that created medical marijuana and decriminalized possession of small amounts in Delaware, Sen. Bonini said he believes the state should make cannabis legal. Asked by Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington, if he would co-sponsor legalization to that end, Sen. Bonini replied he would.

Colin Bonini

Colin Bonini

Elaborating afterward, the Republican said he does not object to adults using cannabis in their own homes.

“My point is, we have already legalized marijuana,” he said. “Let’s be adult enough to realize it and let’s regulate it, let’s tax it, let’s create a structure where we can at least have some control over access to it.”

Teenagers in Delaware increasingly believe pot is not dangerous and its use or possession is not punished, he argued.

National attitudes on marijuana have been steadily shifting for years: An October 2015 Gallup poll found 58 percent of respondents support legalization, and a survey that month by the University of Delaware reported 56 percent of Delawareans back the idea.

Nationally, Alaska, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana.

Sen. Bonini said he would actively push for legalized cannabis if he is elected governor and may do so even if he is not, although he said he would prefer to roll back the recent marijuana-related laws passed by the General Assembly if given a choice.

Asked whether he believes the drug will be legal in Delaware in five years, he said that “it’s going to be legal all over the country.”

According to a spokesman, U.S. Rep. John Carney, a Democrat who is running for governor, supported the decriminalization effort but is waiting to see the effects of it before contemplating backing full-scale legalization.

On Twitter, fellow Republican gubernatorial candidate Lacey Lafferty called legalized marijuana the “end of civilization” and Sen. Bonini a “buffoon.”

Bond Committee meets

With only three legislative days remaining this year, the Joint Committee on Capital Improvement remains uncertain how much money it has to spend.

The panel also known as the Bond Committee met Thursday for the third time this week to work on drawing up the annual capital budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

In light of two recent revenue decreases, the committee may not be able to meet the $486.9 million recommended by Gov. Jack Markell. That total includes $31.3 in General Fund money.

“I can just tell you that we don’t have hardly any money to even deal with just barely the recommended, let alone all the other additional millions,” co-chair Rep. S. Quinton Johnson, D-Middletown, told committee members.

He noted $6 million has been set aside for for Wilmington school redistricting, meaning it theoretically could be moved to the bond bill if the effort to redraw district lines fails.

Legislators did briefly discuss raising the amount of money given to lawmakers for transportation projects within their districts from $260,000 to $275,000.

A few members also raised questions over prevailing wage, which governs what laborers on state-funded construction projects are paid.

The General Assembly agreed last year work fully paid for by Community Transportation Funds and Municipal Street Aid would not be subject to prevailing wage, saving money. Thursday, the committee contemplated removing projects that are covered at all by those two funding sources from prevailing wage requirements.

After some members raised concerns, the group agreed to set it aside for now.

The committee will meet again next week.

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