Del. Lawmakers to Consider Marijuana Decriminalization Bill - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Del. Lawmakers to Consider Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - Delaware is going to look at decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. A decriminalization bill was introduced Thursday.

Maryland approved a decriminalization law earlier this spring creating a system of just civil fines for having anything less than ten grams. The proposal in Delaware goes much further than that.

The bill would let people over the age of 21 have an ounce or less of pot for personal use. There would be no criminal or civil penalty for that. More than an ounce would still lead to criminal prosecution. Using pot in public would also still be illegal and lead to a $100 fine.

Zoe Patchell, legislative correspondent for the Delaware chapter of NORML, a marijuana advocacy organization, says her group supports the bill but wishes it did more.

"Decriminalization is a step in the right direction. But we really need a tax and regulate system here in Delaware," she said. "We need a well-regulated medical cannabis system, as well as a well-regulated and taxed recreational system. Both those needs exist."

State Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, points out a bill authorizing that medical marijuana system was approved back in 2011. That's part of the reason he doesn't support this new measure.

"We haven't even gotten our compassionate care centers up and running. I think we're really muddying the waters here. I think we have a lot to do on the drug issue out there and the war on drugs. I don't think this is it. I think it's a bad move," he said.

A March poll from the Marijuana Policy Project revealed that two-thirds of Delawareans support the decriminalization of marijuana.

Gov. Jack Markell's office says he is open to conversations on the issue. The attorney general's office just said its staff is still reviewing the bill.

There's only a month left in this year's legislative session. That's going to make passing this bill very difficult. Its sponsor says she introduced it to begin a dialogue on the issue.

“I have no illusions that we are definitely going to pass this next month,” Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington South, said in a statement. “But I also look at the number of co-sponsors we’ve been able to gain and the public polling data supporting bills like this, and you can see that there is a movement to make this happen.”
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