On Thursday, immediately after the Delaware Senate finalized the Delaware General Assembly’s approval of House Bill 39, which decriminalizes marijuana, Democratic Governor Jack Markell signed it into law. According to The News Journal, the new law allows people in the state to privately possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis without facing jail time or marring their criminal records.
However, those caught with small amounts of pot will be punished with a $100 civil fine and forced to surrender their marijuana to police. According to the above-embedded video coverage by CBS Philly, the law takes effect in six months.
Additionally, the bill’s legislative text notes, “The public use or consumption of an ounce or less of marijuana will be an unclassified misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $200 or imprisonment for not more than 5 days. This penalty is in line with the penalty for possession or consumption of an open container of alcohol in most municipalities in the state… This bill does not repeal or modify existing laws relating to medical marijuana or penalties for the operation of motor vehicles under the influence.”
A statement about the law by Kelly Bachman, a spokesperson for Governor Markell, read, “The governor remains committed to reducing the number of people entering the criminal justice system and refocusing resources where they are needed most and House Bill 39 supports these efforts.”
Reuters points out the fact that Delaware law previously penalized simple marijuana possession with up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,150.
The bill was introduced by Representative Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington). Republican lawmakers in the state stood unanimous in their opposition to the bill, citing their view that decriminalization sends the wrong message to children.
“This is a vote we’re going to really, really regret. Would you want your kid smoking weed? I think the answer is overwhelmingly no,” said State Senator Colin Bonini (R-Dover) in comments cited by The News Journal.
Despite this change to Delaware law, federal law still criminalizes the possession of marijuana, which it classifies, similarly to hardcore drugs like heroin and methamphetamine, as a Schedule 1 narcotic with no medical use.
In September of last year, Ben Swann released a Truth in Media episode tackling the federal government’s mixed messages on marijuana. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.