Delaware: Lawmakers Advance Legislation Eliminating Marijuana Possession Penalties

Dover, DE: Majorities of lawmakers in the House and Senate have approved legislation, House Bill 371, eliminating penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis by adults. 

House members voted 26 to 14 and Senate members voted 13 to 7 to advance the legislation. Virtually all Democrats voted for the measure while the majority of Republicans decided against it.

A spokesperson for Democratic Gov. John Carney said that he will review the bill, but that the Governor remains largely opposed to legalization. Governor Carney has previously expressed concerns that cannabis may act as a so-called ‘gateway drug’ and has said that he doesn’t believe that legalizing it is a “good idea.” 

However, in recent years, the Governor has nonetheless signed various marijuana reform bills into law – including legislation removing criminal penalties for cannabis possession for minors as well as legislation expanding the pool of health care practitioners eligible to provide medical marijuana authorizations.

NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altieri said, “We applaud the Delaware legislature for passing this important legislation. The overwhelming majority of Delaware residents support ending their state’s failed prohibition on marijuana, and Governor Carney should respect the will of the people.”

Laura Sharer, Executive Director of Delaware NORML added: “The collateral consequences of the thousands of cannabis possession offenses that occur every year in Delaware extend far beyond fines. It’s time to right these immense wrongs. We can now work to accept cannabis use as an issue of personal choice, not criminal behavior.”

Separate legislation (HB 372) that seeks to legalize and regulate the retail sale of marijuana and marijuana products is still pending before lawmakers. Previous attempts to pass legislation to regulate and tax marijuana sales stalled in the Senate, which requires a three-fifths majority vote to approve any measure that establishes new taxes. 

Additional information is available from Delaware NORML.