Delaware House majority votes to legalize marijuana, but bill fails
Last update: August 30, 2018
On June 27, 2018, the Delaware House of Representatives voted 21-15 (with five not voting) to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adults. This was only the third time that the majority of a state legislative chamber voted to legalize and regulate marijuana!
Unfortunately, however, a majority was not enough. A three-fifths supermajority — 25 votes — is required for any Delaware bill that includes taxes and fees.
While we are disappointed that this will not be the year Delaware legalizes marijuana, together we’ve made tremendous progress. Many thanks to bill sponsor Rep. Helene Keeley (who is retiring from the legislature) and the dozens of advocates who have worked tirelessly to end prohibition in the First State. This is an election year, and we’ll be putting together a candidate questionnaire and voter guide, so please make sure you’re signed up for our free email alerts.
Governor signs marijuana expungement bill
On August 29, Gov. John Carney signed into law SB 197, which makes it easier to expunge marijuana possession convictions. The measure had unanimously passed the House and Senate. This modest but important law will stop derailing dreams for conduct that has been decriminalized.
Individuals with a single conviction for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana would automatically qualify to clear their record. To receive an expungement, individuals will first request their certified records from the State Bureau of Identification. Then, they pay a fee and fill out a form to apply for mandatory expungement.
Coalition works to replace marijuana prohibition with regulation
A group of organizations, including MPP, are working together to regulate marijuana as the Delaware Cannabis Policy Coalition. Check out our website and consider getting involved!
If you are a member of an organization that would like to join our coalition, we would love to hear from you. We are in the process of growing our network of supporters.
If you are a member or former member of law enforcement, active or retired military personnel, member of the clergy, economist, medical professional, business leader, or a victim of marijuana prohibition, and you support ending marijuana prohibition, please get in touch with us to see how you can be of special help.
Delaware’s decriminalization law
In December 2015, Delaware’s bill to decriminalize marijuana possession took effect. HB 39, which passed the General Assembly and was signed into law by then-Governor Jack Markell, made possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine with no possibility of jail. Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana was previously a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $575 fine and up to three months in jail. Please see our summary of HB 39 for further details.
While decriminalization was an important reform, it is no substitute for regulating marijuana for adults’ use. A $100 fine can be an extreme hardship to low-income residents, and decriminalization did nothing to take marijuana sales off of the sometimes dangerous illicit market. Don’t forget to ask your lawmakers to support regulating marijuana.
Medical marijuana compassion centers open; more coming soon
Almost four years after the state’s medical marijuana act was signed into law, Delaware’s first compassion center — First State Compassion — opened to qualified patients on June 26, 2015 in Wilmington. First State Compassion opened a second location in Lewes in spring of 2017. In late June 2018, Columbia Care opened in Smyrna. A fourth compassion center, based in Newark, is expected to open in 2019.
The Department of Health continues to accept applications for medical marijuana ID cards, which are 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 Karen O’Keefe and Noah Mamber in Dover with Sen. Margaret Rose Henry and several of the state’s most committed patients to watch then-Gov. Markell sign SB 17, the state’s medical marijuana bill.
Thank you for supporting MPP. To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Delaware, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service.