WILMINGTON, Del. — Voting along party lines, the Delaware state Senate gave final approval Thursday to a measure that decriminalizes the possession and private use of small amounts of marijuana, and Gov. Jack Markell almost immediately signed the legislation into law.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed a marijuana decriminalization bill Thursday after it passed the Democratic-controlled Senate. Republicans, who did not support the bill, argued that decriminalizing marijuana would encourage more young people to us USA TODAY
The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Helene Keeley,, allows Delawareans to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and use the drug privately without facing criminal sanctions.
Criminal penalties for simple possession will be replaced with a civil $100 fine. The law takes effect in six months.
The decriminalization measure, which cleared the House earlier this month, passed despite significant opposition from police groups, and from Republicans.
Selling marijuana remains criminal under the law. No Republican voted in favor of the legislation in either the House or the Senate.
"This is a vote we're going to really, really regret," Republican Sen. Colin Bonini said. "Would you want your kid smoking weed. I think the answer is overwhelmingly no."
In a statement after Thursday's vote, Robert Capecchi, a lobbyist with the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, said "marijuana is an objectively less harmful substance than alcohol, and most Americans now agree it should be treated that way. Delaware has taken an important step toward adopting a more sensible marijuana policy," Capecchi said.
Nineteen other states and the District of Columbia have stopped charging citizens criminally for possessing small amounts of marijuana. In Delaware, like in other states, there is evidence that the law is disproportionately enforced along racial lines, which was a driving force behind the bill's passage.
Blacks in Delaware were three times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, despite accounting for a much smaller portion of the population, according to a 2013 report from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Marijuana arrests previously threatened to saddle Delawareans with a criminal record, something the legislation's supporters believed was unnecessary for a drug that they say poses few risks.
"It's safer for me to choose cannabis over alcohol," Zoe Patchell, a Delaware marijuana activist with Cannabis Bureau of Delaware, said during committee testimony Wednesday.
The bill's supporters did give some ground to opponents, especially those in the law enforcement community. Language added by amendments strictly defines a public place where it will remain criminal to consume marijuana. Public places include any outdoor space within 10 feet of any window or sidewalk.
Delawareans under 21 also still face criminal penalties if caught with marijuana under an amendment added in the House. And it will remain criminal to consume marijuana in a moving vehicle under the current legislation.
Police groups remained concerned throughout legislative debate that decriminalizing marijuana possession could limit their ability to initiate searches that could lead to even more substantial charges for drug dealers and traffickers.
State Attorney General Matt Denn, the state's top law enforcement official, said Thursday that he supported the decriminalization measure. "I've said for some time that we're generally supportive of possession of small amounts being treated as a civil rather than a criminal offense," Denn said.
VIA USA Today
By Mark Miller
Delaware’s first medical marijuana dispensary will open in September according to the state’s Division of Public Health.
The Delaware Medical Marijuana Program was signed into law in 2011 but implementation was delayed because of concerns of federal intervention. However, in the wake of the US Department of Justice announcing last year they will not prosecute those adhering to state legal pot laws, Delaware’s public health department was able to move forward with the program.
The announcement was made as the state’s Joint Finance Committee was questioning the public health department about the $70,000 it received for operational costs tied to medical pot.
Public heath director Dr. Karyl Rattay explained that a vendor to operate Delaware’s pilot “compassion center” should be chosen by late April. Cultivation is slotted to begin in July followed by sales in September. Under state law, vendors can grow up to 150 plants at once and stock up to 1,500 ounces of medical marijuana.
To allay fears that medical pot could be diverted into the black market, state dispensaries will have 24/7 video surveillance and bar code tracking of all medicine sold. Additionally, compassion centers must operate as nonprofit, be subjected to random inspections and must report any missing cannabis within 24 hours.
While the Marijuana Policy Project expressed concerns that the initial dispensary will not be able to supply enough medicine to meet demand, presently there are only 55 registered pot patients in Delaware – though the health department expects those numbers to swell to several hundred once the pilot cannabis clinic opens for business.
Via High Times
Delaware governor signs mmj bill
The new law allows people 18 and older with certain serious or debilitating conditions that could be alleviated by marijuana to possess up to six ounces of cannabis. Qualifying patients would be referred to state-licensed and regulated “compassion centers,” which would be located in each of Delaware’s three counties. The centers would grow, cultivate and dispense the marijuana.
No word yet on a federal warning.