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Delaware releases draft recreational marijuana regulations

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The new era of Delaware cannabis is on the horizon and Rob Coupe, the state’s first Marijuana Commissioner says he’s ready for the challenge.

Delaware’s new Office of the Marijuana Commissioner opened in July 2023./PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OMC

DOVER — Delaware is looking for public involvement as it starts growing its newest regulated industry – adult-use recreational marijuana. 

The Office of the Marijuana Commissioner (OMC) has released proposed health and safety regulations for the industry and is now accepting formal comments on the 52-page document through May 31. Comments must be emailed to OMC@delaware.gov.

The OMC was established last year shortly after the Delaware Marijuana Control Act became law in the spring of 2023, legalizing adult-use recreational marijuana and effectively creating a newly regulated industry. Its new commissioner and former veteran state trooper, Rob Coupe, is now tasked with adopting the “rules and regulations necessary for the implementation of this law,” according to the OMC.

Delaware’s Division of Public Health also contributed to the effort, along with the Delaware Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement, Office of Medical Marijuana, Division of Revenue, Department of Justice and Registrar’s Office.

The proposed regulations, which were published on May 1 in the Delaware Register of Regulations, tackle a plethora of topics from licensure and procedures to product testing requirements and documentation needed for businesses to run successful operations.

It also dives deeper into Delaware’s first and only retail tax which is already set at 15% by law for recreational marijuana products. Early estimates from the OMC suggest a potential tax revenue of $42 million generated solely from the sales tax.

“We’re hearing a lot of people say, ‘This [marijuana] is already dangerous’ and it’s already out there. But I think what gets missed is that this will now be a regulated market. There will be testing, procedures and checks and balances in place to ensure safety. We will also have opportunities for social equity candidates to succeed and Delaware will financially benefit from this industry,” Coupe told the Delaware Business Times. 

He acknowledged that while this likely won’t completely eliminate illegal production and sales of the drug, he hopes the process creates a safer and healthier environment for marijuana users while offering a new revenue stream for the state under the watchful eye of his new office.

The goal is to have regulations approved by mid-July so the OMC can get the ball rolling by accepting licensure applications as early as September of this year. According to a suggested timeline from the OMC, 60 cultivation facility licenses could be issued as early as Nov. 1. Another 30 manufacturing licenses could be issued by Dec. 1 and 30 retail store licenses and five testing facility licenses issued by March of 2025. 

Based on a lottery system, the office must award a minimum of 125 licenses in total, of which at least 47 must be social equity licenses. Applicants do not need to have a business plan in place prior to filing an application, but other requirements are listed in the proposed regulations, as well as application fees. 

“We have a very big health and safety role. We’re embracing that role because of the risks. Just like other activities such as drinking or smoking have risks, we need to do our due diligence to make sure we have a good start to this newly regulated industry,” Coupe told DBT.

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