Dover, DE: Democrat Gov. Jack Markell signed legislation late last week decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses.
House and Senate lawmakers had previously approved the measure despite vocal opposition from law enforcement and Republican legislators. No Republican lawmakers voted in favor of the bill.
Under state law, the possession of personal use quantities of cannabis is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a criminal record. House Bill 39 reduces penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine only -- no arrest, and no criminal record.
The use of marijuana in public or in a moving vehicle will remain a criminal offense.
The new penalties take effect in mid-December.
According to the ACLU, Delaware ranks #17 in the nation in per capita marijuana possession arrests. Blacks in Delaware are three times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Delaware's decriminalization law mimics similar laws in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont - each of which treat minor marijuana possessions as a civil violation. Similar legislation approved by lawmakers in Illinois is awaiting action from the Governor.
Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio classify marijuana possession as a misdemeanor punishable by a fine only.
Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, DC previously enacted marijuana decriminalization policies, but have since amended their laws to legalize the plant's possession and use.
The measure also creates a patient registry for those under the age of 18. In instances where patients are diagnosed with pediatric epilepsy, the recommending physician must be a pediatric neurologist, a pediatric gastroenterologist, a pediatric oncologist or a pediatric palliative care specialist. Under the new law, adolescent patients are only permitted to possess oil formulations containing at least 15 percent CBD and no more than 7 percent THC and/or oils containing 15 percent THC acid and no more than 7 percent THC.
Over a dozen states similarly acknowledge the use of CBD for patients with pediatric epilepsy.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500.