2021 legislative session underway; new opportunity for legalization!
Last updated: January 12, 2021
The General Assembly convened for an unprecedented virtual session on Tuesday, January 12, and legalization is among the many issues that lawmakers are expected to consider this year.
Rep. Ed Osienski, sponsor of the 2020 legalization bill, plans to introduce a bill again this session. Several seats were flipped in the General Assembly last November, and there are now 15 states — including Delaware’s neighbor, New Jersey — that have legalized cannabis for adults.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Delaware’s medical cannabis program has allowed medical cannabis to be delivered to qualified patients and caregivers throughout the state.
The program is being implemented due to Delaware’s state of emergency declaration, but regulators intend to create a more defined program and continue delivery once the crisis has abated.
Columbia Care, which has locations in Wilmington, Smyrna, and Rehoboth Beach, was the first company to launch a delivery service. Compassion centers are also currently providing online ordering and curbside pickup for patients to ensure patients can safely access their medicine in a way that is consistent with public health guidelines on preventing the spread of coronavirus.
You can find a list of compassion centers in Delaware here.
Governor signs marijuana expungement bills
In both 2018 and 2019, Gov. John Carney signed bills to expand expungement, including for marijuana convictions.
The 2018 law — SB 197 — allows individuals with a single conviction for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana to automatically qualify to clear their record. To receive an expungement, individuals must 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.
On June 30, 2019, Gov. Carney signed SB 37 into law. This bill allows for a single cannabis misdemeanor conviction to be expunged after five years and a single cannabis felony conviction to be expunged after seven years.
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.
On July 31, 2019, Gov. Carney signed SB 45 into law, which expanded the decriminalization to those under 21 years old.
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.
Six medical marijuana compassion centers now open
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. There are now six medical marijuana compassion centers open throughout the state. You can find a compassion center location here.
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.