Gov. Carney hosts town hall, hears resident concerns on healthcare and marijuana

Gov. John Carney took his FY2024 budget plan on the road, hosting a town hall in New Castle Wednesday night.

Carney also ended up answering questions about issues including litter, bikeways, tax breaks, and marijuana legalization.

Around 100 people came to the New Castle Public Library, and at least a quarter of them were sporting marijuana leaf pins, there to ask Carney what he will do with the legalization and regulation bills currently on his desk.

Andrea Brown-Clarke is a medical marijuana patient who notes Carney supports medical marijuana for its benefits, and questions why he won’t legalize it recreationally when over 65% of his constituents support it.

“And you’re speaking about economics, you’re speaking about remaining competitive with your neighboring states, and as you know, New Jersey legalized in the summer, Maryland just legalized, and Pennsylvania is right behind us,” Brown-Clarke says. “So my question to you is when are you going to make the first state, not the last state, but the 22nd state, and help us get this done?”

Carney did not say what he plans to do with the bills.

“I’m not going to make any news tonight,” he said.

But he reiterated his opposition, saying he doesn’t think legalization is good for young people and doesn’t believe it helps Delaware’s competitiveness.

Advocates presented Carney with documentation about the benefits of legalization, including a study from Healthy Kids Colorado that showed underage use decreased from 20.6 to 13% since Colorado legalized it.

Carney says he’s not sure he believes the numbers that advocates are presenting him with and doesn’t make decisions based on polls.

“A lot of people do disagree with me on it,” he says. “I believe that I’m right but I’m not suggesting that I have the only opinion on it.”

Carney has until April 22nd to act on the legalization bill, and until April 26 on the regulation bill. If he does not sign or veto them, they go into effect.

Former physician Dennis Young was there to express his concerns over the state retiree healthcare system – specifically a proposed move to Medicare Advantage.

“Retirees who used to work for the State of Delaware would be forced to give up their regular Medicare and accept Medicare Advantage for their healthcare, which is a significant reduction in coverage and threatens access to treatment for so many retirees.”

Carney argues the plan was made specifically for Delaware, and not an “off the shelf” Medicare Advantage program. He adds it’s needed to tackle rising healthcare costs among state retirees, which are growing faster than state revenue can keep up with.

Carney says he would rather give retirees an increase in their retirement paychecks than healthcare, but calls it a “fact” that Medicare Advantage does not restrict retiree’s healthcare.

In February, 27 former State senators and representatives sent an open letter to Carney and lawmakers arguing that the plan denies medically-necessary care ordered by doctors, requires pre-authorization requests for 2,030 procedures and medications, and comes with a substantial increase in out-of-pocket costs for retirees.

A lawsuit over the proposed move prompted the state to allow retirees to keep their existing coverage through December as the state considers its options.

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