Delaware decriminalization bill introduced

Delawareans caught with an ounce or less of marijuana would face just civil fines, not a criminal record, under decriminalization legislation introduced Thursday by a Wilmington lawmaker in the state House of Representatives.

Rep. Helene Keeley, the south Wilmington Democrat, said state residents should not have trouble getting a job, or finding financial aid for college, simply because they were busted with a small amount of marijuana.

The legislation, House Bill 39, would treat simple possession and private use, like a traffic ticket. Selling cannabis, and also possessing with an intent to sell, would remain criminal offenses.

“There’s definitely a generational shift going on here,” Keeley said in a Thursday interview.

Keeley’s bill would impose a $100 fine for possession of up to an ounce of cannabis.

Fines double if not paid within 90 days, and administrative fees also apply.
Under the legislation, those caught smoking marijuana in a public place would still face a criminal, unclassified misdemeanor charge, punishable by a $200 fine and up to five days behind bars.

Keeley’s legislation does not specify different penalties for offenders of different ages.

Pot activists cheered introduction of the measure.

“It’s long past overdue that Delaware decriminalizes possession of a small amount,” said Robert Capecchi, deputy director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates for decriminalization and legalization.

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