House committee approves decriminalization legislation
On May 6, the Delaware House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security approved legislation to replace the criminal penalty for marijuana possession with a civil fine of $100. The bill will now go to the full House, so if you are a resident of Delaware, please email your state representative in support of HB 39 today!
Introduced by Rep. Helene Keeley, HB 39 would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine with no possibility of jail. Currently, possession of one ounce or less of marijuana in the First State is a misdemeanor punishable by up to three months in jail, a criminal fine of up to $575, or both. Unfortunately, according to the ACLU, this punishment is disproportionately felt by African Americans, who are three times more likely to be arrested in Delaware for marijuana possession than their white neighbors.
Polling conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project in March 2014 found 68% support for replacing Delaware's criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a $100 civil fine. In late March, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell published a letter to the editor in the New York Times stating his support for decriminalizing the possession of a small amount of marijuana as well!
This support should come as no surprise. This is a modest policy change that would allow law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes and would end the draconian practice of saddling Delawareans with criminal records for simply possessing a small amount of a substance that is safer than alcohol.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted similar reforms. Four more states — Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon — have made marijuana legal for adults 21 and older, an idea that is also supported by a majority of Delaware voters. Yet, Delaware continues to criminalize possession of personal use quantities of marijuana. With your help, 2015 will finally be the year Delaware stops arresting individuals for possessing a modest amount of marijuana.
Compassion center regulations final
In August 2014, more than three years after the state’s medical marijuana act was signed into law, Delaware’s first compassion center was finally approved. First State Compassion is expected to open in June 2015. Unfortunately, it will be limited to cultivating 150 plants — far too few to meet patients’ needs. MPP submitted comments urging the department to revise the regulations to ensure a workable program. While the department refused to lift the cap now, there is a possibility of doing so later if and when the current regulations prove too limited.
The Department of Health continues to accept applications for medical marijuana ID cards, which will be required for patients seeking to obtain their medicine from a compassion center. If you are interested in obtaining your medical marijuana ID card, please visit the medical marijuana program's website or call them at (302) 744-4749 to receive application forms. If you have further questions about the medical marijuana program, please see our summary of the law.
MPP's Noah Mamber and Karen O'Keefe in Dover with Sen. Margaret Rose Henry and several of the state's most committed patients to watch Gov. Markell sign SB 17.
Ending marijuana prohibition in Delaware
Ending marijuana prohibition by passing legislation to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol will take a diverse coalition of supporters. If you are a member or former member of law enforcement, active or retired military personal, member of the clergy, economist, medical professional, or a victim of marijuana prohibition, and you support ending marijuana prohibition, we’d love to hear from you.
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