Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed a bill into law Thursday night that will remove criminal penalties and potential jail time for adult possession of a small amount of marijuana. The Delaware Senate approved the bill 12-9 earlier in the evening. The new law will take effect in six months.
HB 39, introduced by Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South) in the House and sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chair Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington East) in the Senate, will replace criminal penalties for adult marijuana possession with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket. Under current Delaware law, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of a $575 fine and three months in jail.
Delaware is the 20th state to decriminalize marijuana possession or make it legal for adults. Nineteen other states and the District of Columbia have adopted laws removing the threat of jail time for simple marijuana possession, four of which also regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol. The Illinois General Assembly approved a similar measure in May, which is now awaiting action from the governor.
Statement from Robert Capecchi, deputy director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project:
"We commend Gov. Markell and the Delaware Legislature for moving the state forward and leaving its antiquated marijuana possession law behind. Adults in Delaware will no longer be branded as criminals simply for consuming a substance that is undeniably less harmful than alcohol. Law enforcement officials will be able to spend more time addressing serious crimes instead of arresting and prosecuting adults for simple marijuana possession.
"Marijuana prohibition's days are numbered, not just in Delaware, but nationwide. States around the country are rolling back their outdated marijuana prohibition policies. We're seeing rapid progress from coast to coast, and we do not expect it to slow down anytime soon."
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The Marijuana Policy Project, the nation's largest marijuana policy organization, has been responsible for changing most state-level marijuana laws since 2000. For more information, visit www.MarijuanaPolicy.org.