Delaware Gov. Carney vetoes legislation that would legalize recreational marijuana

Recreational marijuana has been made legal in a number of states.

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Delaware Gov. John Carney on Tuesday announced that he is vetoing legislation that would have legalized recreational marijuana in the First State -- saying it was not in the best interests of the state.

The Democratic governor, who has previously expressed skepticism about the benefits of legalizing recreational marijuana, vetoed legislation that would have removed all penalties for up to an ounce of marijuana possession by an adult.

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Carney said he recognizes the "positive effect" that the drug can have for some with health conditions. He also said that he supports decriminalization "because I agree that individuals should not be imprisoned solely for the possession and private use of a small amount of marijuana — and today, thanks to Delaware’s decriminalization law, they are not."

However, he said that he does not believe that "promoting or expanding" recreational marijuana use "is in the best interests of the state of Delaware, especially our young people.

Delaware Governor John Carney vetoed legislation legalizing recreational marijuana. 

Delaware Governor John Carney vetoed legislation legalizing recreational marijuana.  (Mark Makela/Getty Images)

"Questions about the long-term health and economic impacts of recreational marijuana use, as well as serious law enforcement concerns, remain unresolved," he said.

The veto puts the Democratic governor at odds with his fellow party members in the legislature, who passed the bill and sent it to his desk. Another bill, that would establish a state-run industry in the state failed to clear the House, despite getting a majority in the chamber -- it requires a 3/5ths majority as it would create a new tax.

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Rep. Ed Osienski, who sponsored both pieces of legislation, said in a statement he was "deeply disappointed" by Carney's veto, and that he would "review what options are available and decide on any next steps at a later time." He claimed that until a market is established in Delaware "people will continue to obtain marijuana illegally here through the illicit market or send tax revenue across the Delaware Memorial Bridge to New Jersey."

Democratic lawmakers could seek to override the veto, but it is not clear if they will seek to do so. It would also require a 3/5ths majority.

Carney’s vote is out of step with the mood of the Democratic Party nationally, which has embraced the effort to legalize marijuana. Neighboring New Jersey recently began selling recreational marijuana after Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed the legislation last year. 

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Currently, recreational marijuana use is permitted in 18 states and the District of Columbia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.