Next in Line: Delaware’s Push to Legalize Marijuana

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

Delaware could soon be the next state to take a relaxed approach towards marijuana. The state put forth a new bill that, if passed, would make it legal for citizens to possess a small amount of pot.

The Fine Print

House Bill 39, introduced by Rep. Helene Keeley (D), would treat simple possession of marijuana and private use of the drug as if it were a traffic ticket. Those caught with an ounce or less would only face a $100 civil fine and the offense would not go on their criminal record. Those who smoke marijuana in public would still face misdemeanor charges punishable by a $200 fine and up to five days behind bars.

“There’s definitely a generational shift going on here,” said Keeley. “There are a lot of people out there who, instead of going home and having a martini, or going home and having a glass of wine, they want to go home and take a couple hits. For them that is just as relaxing as having a glass of wine.”

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell has also indicated that he would support decriminalizing marijuana use, while House Bill 39 also has twelve other Democratic members of the General Assembly listed as co-sponsors.

On the other hand, Tom Brackin, president of the Delaware State Troopers Association, has expressed reservations about the move toward the legalization of pot. Due to the dangers of pot, Brackin thinks the personal use limit should be lower than an ounce and thinks those found with marijuana under the age of 21 should face more than civil penalties.

There are a lot of people out there who, instead of going home and having a martini, or going home and having a glass of wine, they want to go home and take a couple hits.-Rep. Helene Keeley

Legal Issues Related to Marijuana

When you look at pot-related charges that have been leveled against Delaware’s citizens, they stack up as follows:

  • Delaware’s own state data shows there were 2,334 unclassified misdemeanor adult charges for possessing marijuana in 2013.
  • Although 80 percent of those defendants were found guilty of possession, 70 percent had their charges dismissed or the offenders agreed to enter a drug diversion program in exchange for dropping the charges.
  • Only nine people received jail time and all of those cases involved other factors such as weapons charges and aggravated menacing.

The State-by-State Domino Effect

Delaware certainly isn’t the only state considering marijuana legalization.

Last month, New Mexico State Senator Joseph Cervantes introduced Senate Bill 383 to decriminalize marijuana in his home state.

Under the Senate Bill 383 proposal, any individual caught with up to four ounces of pot will only face a civil penalty; anyone with up to eight ounces would not face jail time.

Eighteen states currently have laws in place that decriminalize the use and possession of marijuana.

Learn more about the treatment process for marijuana addiction.

Image Credits: Instagram/PSU/Flickr

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