Delaware: Governor Signs Measure Decriminalizing Minor Marijuana Possession Offenses

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed legislation today decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses.

Members of the Senate voted 12 to 9 in favor of the measure, House Bill 39, this afternoon. The Governor signed the measure into law this evening.

House and Senate members approved the measure despite vocal opposition from law enforcement and Republicans. 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 6 months in jail, a $575 fine, 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 six months from today.

According to the ACLU, Delaware police arrest more than 2,500 individuals annually for simple marijuana possession offenses. 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 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.

25 thoughts

  1. “No Republican lawmakers voted in favor of the bill.”

    Why am I not surprised. Let’s see, the Republicans and “law enforcement” were against decriminalization. I want to hear from those posters who keep insisting both parties are exactly the same.

    We don’t know what a Pres Hillary or a Pres Sanders would do. We DO know what a Pres. Christie or a Pres Jindal would do. (For those of you who don’t know, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal recently refused clemency for a man who was given a 13-year friggin’ sentence for two lousy joints!) Yep, Repubs are all about personal freedom.

  2. Bernie Sanders is the most marijuana-friendly candidate. The problem with the Republicans is their mothers did so much crack with their boyfriends and locked their kids out of the bedroom is why they are so anti-drug.

  3. Sweet!

    “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.”

    Next we need a law that reduces penalties for the sale of up to one ounce of marijuana to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine only – no arrest, and no criminal record NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES YOU ARE CITED AND NOTHING SIEZED OR CONFISCATED. Then you can have sort of Amsterdam-style cannabis coffeeshops. If the cops decide to come into the coffeeshop, like they don’t have anything better to do such as dealing with and preventing REAL CRIMES, they can’t take your product; they can’t take your money; they can’t make you move from the premises; even after they have written you a citation for $100. How long are they going to hang around writing citations for each sale they witness you do? You gonna have look-outs so the profit far outweigh the risks.

  4. I was comparing NORML’s laws between New Jersey and Delaware, and New Jersey’s are in imperial weights (ounces) while Delaware’s are in metric (grams). It would be nice to have both ounces and grams for each state just for easy comparisons. Maybe just pick grams and post everything in grams. Yes, people can do the math. It’s about instant impact as soon as they see them juxtaposed.

  5. i know some who spend 1000 dollars a month and some even more we could collect so much taxes to help Delaware to build schools and universities but now we are borrowing money to build jails


  6. I’m kind of disappointed about the fact that this is suddenly a Democrat issue. Marijuana law reform has generally been very bipartisan because it’s an issue that both parties can get behind – it ends insensible policies while providing extra cash-flow for the state.

    I’m also disappointed that the recent poll in NJ found a sharp divide among party lines about legalization.

  7. “House and Senate members approved the measure despite vocal opposition from law enforcement and Republicans. No Republican lawmakers voted in favor of the bill.”

    This recurring nightmare of Rebublicans that hate freedom. Is this going to be the same story 30 years from now?

  8. @Evening Bud – The Repugnicans are the ones here in Virginia that insist that locking up each and every one of us users is the thing to do. We tried to decriminalize here and every Democrat voted for it. Every Republican voted against it.

    Screw the Republican party!!! I know there are a select few good ones out there, but as a party – they suck!

  9. @ Miles,

    Here in NM, it was Repubs who defeated decriminalization in the state’s largest city of Albuquerque last year. The city council voted 5-4 to put the issue on the ballot–you can guess which commissioners voted for it and which voted against it (sigh), but Albq mayor Raymond Berry–you got it, a Repub–vetoed it. The council didn’t have enough votes to override his veto.

    My state has even less chance now with Repubs winning the states houses for the first time in decades, and a Repub governor, Susanna Martinez, who’s vowed that she’d veto any attempt at state legalization. (In these past few years she’s been seriously considered as a VP running mate for a couple of GOP prexy candidates, because she’s hispanic.)

    We were looking like we might be one of the next states to actually move toward legalization until the Repubs got near-total control last year. It’s pretty sickening.

  10. Amazing watching the ship finally come about. And just like a ship that begins to change course, momentum hastens the turn. Within ten years, it will legal at the Federal level. Who ever would have thought that claim possible back in the “just say no” days?

  11. Hillary C. just mentioned in her speech (CNN, MSNBC-Fox didn’t air it if at all)about percentages of minority basically getting stopped and frisked and drawn into the criminal justice system.

    I didn’t like her word stumble when somehow she put in “demyth” and when she later used “own”. Freudian slips, off script, where are you going with this? If you want to get rid of a dandelion you got to get rid of the tap root, that tentacle growing into the ground, and you got to deal with the root of the excuses for prohibitionist laws that law enforcement and criminal justice use to draw in people. Everybody knows cannabis prohibition is the new Jim Crow. Why is legalization still the third rail?

    So at this rate who’s going to legalize adult recreational first? Delaware’s ahead of NJ.

  12. “(Republican Sen.) Pettyjohn used a bag of oregano for illustration, saying an ounce would be enough for more than 40 joints.”

    After sifting out seeds (for the flowerPOT) and stems (teapot) an ounce is enough for over 900 single tokes (25 mg). Only NORML must first find a way to teach enough Republicans how to use a flexdrawtube one-hitter.

    Another Republican said, “Would you want your kid smoking weed?” The answer, of course, is that every kid needs to be VAPE-literate (hold the light far enough below the opening of your one-hitter that the air is 350-390F/170-190C upon entry).

    “Suck slow,
    don’t glow
    till after 19
    seconds or so.”

  13. @ Mike,

    Back in the ’90s, my brother was a teacher’s aid, and he told me that one day a DARE person came to their school to talk to the kids about the evils of marijuana. After his spiel, which took place in the gym, he asked the kids, “So, what do we say?”

    My brother said, in unison, the kids yelled, “Just say yes!” My brother said that the Principal did not looked pleased.

    Seems even back then the kids knew what was right and what was wrong.

    I have a feeling that had a DARE person addressed my classmates at my high school back in the ’70s, he would’ve gotten a similar reaction. (My HS was considered slightly deviant by the local press here in Albq; of the ten or so HS’s in this town back then we were the only ones who consistently voted down ROTC, and we had as our graduation song a Moody Blues song, whereas every other HS in town voted for a friggin’ Carpenters’ song, lol.)

  14. Looks like at least one Republican in Delaware is campaigning for common sense; Republican Senator Ernesto Lopez managed to introduce the bill that was just signed into law that allows doctors to recommend cannabis oils to children with epilepsy and “intractable disease that conventional medicine failed to remedy.” I still cling with hopeless optimism in the ability of marijuana to treat partisan bull$#!+. Hey, if Congress can get high in D.C. maybe some of them will grow a conscience?

    Nonetheless, the numbers of Republicans voting against marijuana reform is noticeable and staggering leading up to next year’s elections. We get that civil asset forfeitures, Sheriff’s Associations, arms dealers, drug lords, corrupt Agencies in the DOJ, prosecutors, insurance companies, drug testing facilities, private prison owners and Republican representatives are all in bed and since Democratic candidates are run by trial lawyers they are rightfully exposing the drug-prison-ring for the fraudulent excuse for Democracy that it is.

    But then what can we expect when we have racketeering laundry machines for dirty drug money like Trump running for President? Unfortunately for us the Republican laundry machine of campaign money won’t wash out whatever is in Trump’s hair. Or wash his mouth, as Trump’s answer to the drug war is to build a wall from San Diego to Brownsville and “make the Mexicans pay for it.” Nice job Trump; You just lost one of your wealthiest clients for campaign money laundering, Carlos Slim Helu, who also happens to be the richest man in the world (just a billion or two behind Bill Gates, but who even knows what +70 billion net worth even means?) Carlos built an empire out of drug prohibition. It’s like watching the blind leading the blind, who are placing their bets that Democrats will just get disgusted, eyes glazed over and stay at home when it comes time to vote… And sadly for the most part they will be right; but presidential elections tend to get people out on election day, and I have my hopes set on either Joaquin or Julian Castro to be running mates for Hillary and stir up the latino vote. I love what Joaquin is doing here in Texas drawing attention to the immigration prisons that detain women and children calling for them to close down. Until we get representatives and candidates to expose the private prisons, drug testing industries, civil asset forfeitures and tax payer funds used on campaigns we’ll never pierce the heart of prohibition, which lies in the dark and poisoned heart of the Controlled Substances Act.

    Finally, we get to see where our elected officials stand on marijuana reform, the drug war and our personal freedom. Thank you all at NORML for what you do every day. It’s been a long ride and it’s about to get much, much better.

    [Paul Armentano responds: Here is the relevant information regarding SB 90:

  15. Anyone know the current state/fate of Illinois HB218?

    Are Governor Rauner and his fellow “RAUNER REPUBLICANS” mis-using the bill for political leverage?

  16. Sorry, not good enough. Any penalties for adults using/possessing marijuana are wrong. A $100 fine and citation still imply that smoking mj is wrong (it’s not) and still keeps marijuana commerce in the hands of illegit drug dealers so that a) quality and availability remain inconsistent b) there is no quality control or accountability so that they can spray your smoke with whatever crap they want and c) responsible adults are still at risk.

    Nope, nothing short of full legalization/regulation with legitimate licensed retailers is good enough.

    but yes, gotta love those “personal freedom” Republicans.

  17. Yes. I was just passin thru and noticed “a Democrat or the Democrats and it brought back some memories. I have worked in some high places with alot of intelegent people. Democrats & Republicans. This is just my observation. Many people who are Republicans must either be ashamed of themselves or afraid of losing their place in their own little ladder of success. Closet kind of people. Whatever floats their boat.

  18. Before you pat these democrats on the back the Gov. Only opened one dispensary and it is corporate run by a political appointy. The price is higher than hell. 17.00 a gram and up. Just follow the money

  19. “Only opened one dispensary”? Would you rather there be none? It’s located in the population center of the state…

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