Delaware Decriminalizes Marijuana

   

The momentum for marijuana law reform clearly cannot be stopped, whether by local voter initiative, statewide ballot measure, state legislative reform, federal policy-making or in the halls of Congress. The most recent reform is in the great state of Delaware, which just became either the 18th, 19th or 20th state to decriminalize cannabis, depending upon your criteria. The Democrat-backed bill, passed without one Republican vote, actually ends criminal penalties for possession and use of up to an ounce in private, but still gives law enforcement the power to confiscate the cannabis; use in public will be subject to a $100 fine. More from The News Journal:

Robert Capecchi, a lobbyist with the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, said in a statement after Thursday’s vote, “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.”

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 this bill’s passage.

Black people in Delaware were three times more likely than white people 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.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that people in Delaware won’t suffer any fine or criminal penalties for possessing cannabis in private, as that makes the “First State’s” decriminalization measure one of the best in the nation. Since law enforcement officials can confiscate marijuana found in private, I wouldn’t go as far as call cannabis use in private legal, but it is pretty close. My sincere thanks to the Democratic legislators and governor responsible for this sensible cannabis policy as this bill will improve the lives of many people, will benefit all citizens of Delaware and will only help us improve marijuana laws across the nation. I advise Delaware Republicans to join the right side of history on this issue, unless they always want to remain the minority party.

Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.