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.