Delaware may have a reputation as a fairly liberal East Coast state, but Democratic Governor John Carney's views on cannabis are almost as outdated as the Republican governors of Texas, South Dakota, or Nebraska.
In a recent interview with WHYY and Delaware Public Media, Carney was asked whether he would sign a new adult-use legalization bill that is advancing through the state legislature. The governor responded that although he was down with medical pot, he remains thoroughly opposed to legalizing adult-use cannabis.
“We spend all this time and money to get people to stop smoking cigarettes and now we want to say it’s okay to just smoke marijuana recreationally,” Carney told Delaware Public Media. “Look, I don’t want to sound like a prude about it, I just don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Carney also referenced the tired “gateway drug” myth, arguing that cannabis users are at greater risk of becoming addicted to opioids. "If you talk to the parents of some of these folks that have overdosed and passed away they don't think it's a good idea because they remember the trajectory of their own sons and daughters,” he said.
Of course, clinical research studies have shown time and time again that the “gateway drug” idea is not grounded in reality. A 2018 study found that “street-involved youth” that smoked weed were actually less likely to use intravenous drugs than kids that didn't toke up, and other studies have demonstrated that there is no link between legal weed and increased rates of teen drug use.
The governor also told reporters that he doesn't believe that states that legalized adult-use cannabis saw any positive benefit from their decision. “As I look at other states that have it, it just doesn't seem to me to be a very positive thing from the strength of the community, of the economy in their states,” he told Delaware Public Media.
These comments again indicate Carney's ignorance on the issue of legalization. Research studies have confirmed that legal weed does not increase teen drug use, crime, or workplace accidents. The cannabis industry has created over 250,000 jobs and added billions of dollars to the US economy, and one study estimates that federal legalization would create another 1.6 million new jobs and $129 billion in tax revenue. Individual adult-use states have already collected an impressive $8 billion in tax revenue since legalizing pot.
Overall, Carney's comments echo the views of conservative Southern and Midwestern Republicans, putting him far out of step with the Democratic governors of neighboring states. Adult-use cannabis is now legal in New York, New Jersey, and Virginia, and the governors of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island are all pushing to bring legal weed to their own states.
The governor's opposition to adult-use weed does fall in line with another famous Delaware politician, though. President Joe Biden has long opposed full federal legalization, and his proposal for cannabis reform is far more conservative than what Congress or the American people are hoping for.