Wave of prohibition against recreational weed stores rolls across Delaware beach towns

Hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to Delaware’s beach towns every summer to sunbathe, swim, dine, hit the bars, or simply chill out and relax.

But visitors who want to kick back and smoke a joint in their vacation home won’t be able to legally buy weed in the towns along the Atlantic Coast, even though since late April recreational marijuana has been legal in Delaware and 30 retail stores are permitted statewide.

This summer three towns — Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, and Bethany Beach – have banned all marijuana establishments, which includes not only retail dispensaries but growing, manufacturing, and testing operations. The other two towns along the 20-mile stretch of coastline — Lewes and South Bethany — are considering doing the same. So is Ocean View, a small town a few miles inland.

Retail stores whose shelves are stocked with marijuana, like this one in New York state, won’t open in Delaware until late 2024 at the earliest. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

The growing wave of prohibition at the beach stems from a provision in the law, which took effect in July, that creates a regulated marijuana market. The law allows the state’s 57 municipalities to prohibit any of the 125 weed businesses that are authorized. Licenses will be issued starting in the fall of 2024.

The beach towns have raced to enact such bans, with town politicians proclaiming that they want to preserve their reputation as family vacation destinations.

When Dewey Beach passed its ban, Police Chief Constance Speake said having marijuana sales in town could lead to public use on Dewey streets.

“People just don’t read the laws. They’re going to go buy their product and then they’re going to be out on the street smoking dope,” Speake said.

  • August 24, 2023
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