Tag Archives: marijuana decriminalization

Delaware Governor Jack Markell Signs Bill Decriminalizing Simple Pot Possession

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.

[RELATED: Shona Banda’s Attorney Plans to Fight Cannabis’ Classification As Schedule 1 Narcotic]

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.


New Hampshire House Approves Sixth Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

Concord, NH- House Bill 618, legislation to approve decriminalization of marijuana possession passed on Wednesday with a vote of 297-67. Currently, marijuana possession of any amount in New Hampshire is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $2,000 fine and one year in prison. HB 618 would make possession of up to a half ounce of marijuana or five grams of hashish a civil violation with a fine of up to $100 for the first offense. The full bill is available to read here.

“Nobody should face jail time and a permanent criminal record just for possessing a substance that is far less harmful than alcohol,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Granite Staters do not want their state government to continue wasting its resources on enforcing such an unfair and outdated policy. Hopefully our state senators and governor will respect that and move forward with this legislation.”

“The New Hampshire Constitution states that the penalty for an offense needs to fit the severity of the crime,” Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket), a sponsor of HB 618, told Fosters.com. “And right now, marijuana is being treated as though it’s just as severe a crime as the hard drugs like heroin and cocaine. And so from that perspective, the easiest answer is that the penalty ought to fit the crime.”

This year’s vote signals rising support from House legislators for removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession.  Last year, a decriminalization bill passed the House 215-92. In 2013, a decriminalization bill was passed in the House 214-115. Wednesday’s vote marked the sixth time the House has voted to decriminalize marijuana.

While it appears to become easier each year for the House to pass a decriminalization bill, the Senate has continued to show its opposition by killing the House bills each year. If HB 618 passes the Senate this year, it still faces a veto from Governor Maggie Hassan (D-Exeter).

Hassan has long been vocal about her opposition to relaxing the state’s marijuana laws. During last year’s gubernatorial debates, Hassan appeared to soften her stance on decriminalization, saying that while she believes marijuana is harmful and legalization would lead to more people using it, “I do however think that somebody having a first offense for marijuana, you should not necessarily face criminal charges.” She went on to say that she would push for a “treatment focus” rather than a “criminal justice focus” on marijuana use.

Despite those remarks, Hassan recently told the Nashua Telegraph that she does not support HB 618, and has stated on several occasions that she would veto marijuana legalization measures beyond the medical marijuana bill she signed in 2013. Medical marijuana has yet to be implemented in New Hampshire.

Is the Capital of Tennessee About to Decriminalize Marijuana?

A tipping point may have just been reached on the issue of marijuana decriminalization in Nashville, Tennessee. At a Tuesday candidate forum for Nashville’s 2015 mayoral race, five out of seven candidates for mayor signaled their support of or openness to the idea of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, a fact which Tennessean writer Joey Garrison called “a sign of changing attitudes toward the drug that could boost ongoing efforts to change the law in Davidson County.” The ongoing efforts he mentioned include the pro-pot group TN-NORML‘s drive to collect signatures for a petition to place a referendum on August’s city-wide general election ballot that would allow voters to choose whether to de facto decriminalize the possession of under two ounces of marijuana by defunding prosecutions at the city level.

At the mayoral candidate forum, which was hosted by Nashville’s public radio affiliate WPLN along with local attorneys’ groups, candidates Megan Berry and Jeremy Kane openly espoused their support for decriminalization, while Howard Gentry, David Fox, and Charles Robert Bone signaled their willingness to consider it. Bill Freeman positioned himself against decriminalization, and The Tennessean characterized Linda Eskind Rebrovick’s position as seeming to oppose changing the law.

Charles Robert Bone told those in attendance, “I’ve thought for a long time that the criminalization of small amounts of marijuana was totally unfair… So, I, too, would be receptive to that.” Megan Berry pointed out how pot criminalization has disproportionately affected Nashville’s minority communities, and Howard Gentry noted the fact that sentencing laws exacerbate prohibition’s unfairness.

TN-NORML’s effort to change the law through a city-wide referendum requires that the group collect at least 6,877 valid signatures of registered voters by May 18. If the group is successful, a charter amendment proposal would be placed on August’s general election ballot that would allow Nashvillians to vote up-or-down on whether the city’s law enforcement resources should go towards enforcing criminal laws against possession of less than two ounces of pot. Though state laws would still ban pot possession if the charter amendment were to pass, citizens arrested by Nashville police in violation of the amendment would be able to sue the city for damages. TN-NORML’s attorney Daniel Horwitz said of the initiative, “This is a novel attempt at de-funding prosecution of low-level marijuana offenses. This initiative certainly isn’t a panacea, but once enacted, it would ensure that no more Metro dollars are wasted prosecuting adults for the simple possession of small amounts of marijuana going forward.”

Doak Patton, president of TN-NORML, told The Tennessean, “We would like to see resources devoted toward violent criminals, thieves and people who are needing to be locked away instead of nonviolent offenders.”

Though Tennessee is a hard-red, socially-conservative state, its Republican government recently legalized hemp. Nashville, Tennessee’s capital, is widely known as an open-minded, culturally-diverse center of music and the arts for the deep south, and its voters typically elect liberal-leaning Democrats. Nashvillians also elected former criminal defense attorney Glenn Funk to the position of District Attorney last year after he ran a campaign promising to focus the city’s prosecutions on violent criminals rather than low-level drug users.

Ben Swann recently tackled the federal government’s mixed messages on marijuana prohibition in a September 2014 Truth in Media episode. Watch it in the embedded video player below.

NH House Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

A marijuana decriminalization bill, sponsored by New Hampshire State Representative Adam Schroadter, passed 215-92 on March 12th. The bill, HB-1625, would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a minor violation with a maximum fine of $100. Currently possession of any amount of marijuana in NH is punishable by up to one year in jail and fines of up to $2,000.

This bill differs from the one passed by the NH House in January, in which marijuana would be sold at approved dispensaries with a tax of $30 per ounce. In that bill, residents would also be allowed to grow up to six plants at home.

New Hampshire remains the only New England state that has not passed marijuana decriminalization legislation. NH State Representative Keith Murphy has said that out of 2,800 marijuana arrests in 2010, nearly 90% of them were for simple possession.

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan (D) has expressed partial support of medical marijuana use by signing House Bill 573 into law, but this bill is very restrictive: she called for home cultivation to be stripped from the law,  limited qualifying conditions including the removal of PTSD, and required written permissions from landlords for tenants to use medicinal marijuana on their property. Many patients are frustrated with the length of time being taken to implement medical use; it’s estimated they will be able to use it in the summer of 2015 at the very earliest.

Hassan does not support recreational marijuana use; she has planned to veto January’s recreational marijuana bill, saying that “We have some challenges in our state when it comes to substance abuse. We need to be focusing on that, and I just think it’s the wrong message to send to young people.” She has not yet commented on the decriminalization bill.

Uncontested Republican candidate for NH Governor Andrew Hemingway responded to HB-1625,  “I applaud the House for taking this step. The idea that a young person with a small amount of marijuana can have his or her life ruined by jail time, by revocation of college acceptance, by a criminal record–is outrageous. The punishment should fit the crime and we are heading in the right direction with this issue. New Hampshire used common sense on this legislation and I look forward to its process moving ahead .”