Marijuana legalization comes to Delaware

Admin; Questions to be answered as another state moves forward with the public opinion…

Police seek to cut through haze on Delaware cannabis law

Q&A: DELAWARE’S NEW RECREATIONAL POT RULES

Delaware is now the 20th state, along with the District of Columbia, to decriminalize or legalize simple marijuana possession.

  • WHAT DOES THE LEGISLATION ALLOW?

    Delaware Gov. Jack Markell on Thursday signed legislation decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

  • HOW MUCH IS ALLOWED?

    The legislation eliminates criminal penalties for possession by an adult of 1 ounce of marijuana or less for personal use. Instead, it would be a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine. The cannabis also would be confiscated.

  • WHAT’S CONSIDERED “PERSONAL USE?”

    Smoking pot in a moving vehicle, in public areas, or outdoors on private property within 10 feet of a street, sidewalk or other area generally accessible to the public would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $200 and imprisonment of up to five days.

  • WHEN DOES THE NEW RULE START?

    In six months. Simple possession remains a criminal offense for anyone under 18. Marijuana remains considered an illegal narcotic under federal law.

  • WHAT WAS THE OLD RULE?

    Violators previously could be fined up to $1,150 plus sentenced to six months in jail.

Karl Baker, The News Journal9:38 p.m. EDT June 19, 2015

Setting3Buy Photo

(Photo: The News Journal)

CONNECT 13TWEET 1LINKEDINCOMMENTEMAILMORE

A new law decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana has opened a new set of questions for Delaware law enforcement.

“We have to talk with the attorney general,” said New Castle County Police Chief Elmer Setting on Friday, the day after Gov. Jack Markell signed the measure.

The legislation, which takes effect in six months, eliminates criminal penalties for possession by an adult of 1 ounce of cannabis or less for personal use. A violation will be considered a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine and would not become part of a person’s criminal record.

“It’s going to be similar to having an open can of alcohol” in public, Setting said.

A violation currently is categorized as a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of up to $1,150 and six months in jail.

The legislation will not change any rules regarding medical marijuana or penalties for operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs. Selling pot also will remain banned. Smoking marijuana in a moving vehicle, in public areas, or outdoors on private property within 10 feet of a street, sidewalk or other area generally accessible to the public will be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $200 and imprisonment of up to five days.

“People should do this in their own homes …,” said state Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Democrat, who sponsored the legislation, House Bill 39. “It should not be done in cars. It should be done in the privacy of your own home.”

But there are gray areas, like public areas in apartment complexes. Under current law, if police spot someone smoking marijuana on the steps of an apartment building, they can be arrested, although the new law isn’t clear about whether the standard still applies, Setting said.

“I know it’s confusing, and we’re confused too,” he said.

Newark police Cpl. James Spadola said they’re also consulting with the state Attorney General’s Office to get clarification.

“(We need) to seek their guidance as to how we should adjust,” he said.

State prosecutors are going to interpret the intent of the decriminalization bill and then issue guidance to police agencies, said Department of Justice spokesman Carl Kanefsky.

The clarification process is common when new laws are established, although guidelines have been especially tricky for other states that have undertaken similar changes for medical and recreational usage of marijuana. Florida and Massachusettsboth have had to reexamine standards to clarify rules.

Zoe Pattel, co-chair of the Cannabis Bureau of Delaware, worries about confusion with the recent legislation. That might cause cannabis users to continue to be a target of police attention, she said.

“We’re fearful it won’t stop the arrests,” Pattel said.

SmokingAuthorityBuy Photo

The Smoking Authority sells pipes and other paraphernalia used to consume marijuana. (Photo: KARL BAKER/THE NEWS JOURNAL)

She said the bill is a good first step and is calling for more work to completely legalize marijuana. Cannabis remains illegal under federal law.

Delaware is the 20th state, along with the District of Columbia, to decriminalize or legalize simple marijuana possession, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a national group that has urged changes to marijuana laws. Almost half the states allow medical marijuana.

The bill passed the Democratic-controlled Senate on a straight party-line vote. Delaware State Police officials have said the measure will make it more challenging to target drug dealers because they could not initiate searches on suspicion of simple marijuana possession.

DELAWAREONLINE

Decriminalization proponents argue a marijuana conviction should not cause lives to unravel because of jail time and lost job prospects. Setting agrees but said he’s worried that kids will see the legislation and think cannabis is now legal. Marijuana use could lead to other drugs, he said.

“It’s a misleading bill,” he said. “We are not educating our kids that marijuana is a gateway drug.”

Markell spokeswoman Kelly Bachman in a statement Thursday said “the governor remains committed to reducing the number of people entering the criminal justice system and refocusing resources where they are needed most.”

Markell in 2011 also authorized the use of marijuana for medical usage. The first dispensary, First State Compassion Center near Wilmington, is scheduled to open Friday. About 340 Delawareans carry cards that will allow them to use medical pot.

Williams2Buy Photo

Sherrese Williams visits The Smoking Authority, a shop that sells marijuana paraphernalia, near Wilmington on Friday. Police are consulting with the state Attorney General’s Office to interpret Delaware’s new law allowing possession of small amounts of cannabis. (Photo: KARL BAKER/THE NEWS JOURNAL)

Inside The Smoking Authority, a store that sells marijuana paraphernalia near Wilmington on Friday, Sherrese Williams said she began smoking cannabis to ease pain from medical complications from childbirth 11 years ago. Though she now uses cannabis under the state’s medical marijuana program, she welcomes the decriminalization effort because it will allow individuals to feel better without fear of being arrested.

“I would not have been here right now if I would not have lit up before I came out,” she said.

A total of 2,632 misdemeanor charges of possession of marijuana were filed in 2013, according to the most recent Delaware Criminal Justice Information System data.

Contact Karl Baker at kbaker@delawareonline.com or (302) 324-2329. Follow him on Twitter @kbaker6.

State loosens rules on recreational pot

Delaware is now the 20th state, along with the District of Columbia, to decriminalize or legalize simple marijuana possession.

What does the legislation allow?

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell on Thursday signed legislation decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

How much is allowed?

The legislation eliminates criminal penalties for possession by an adult of 1 ounce of marijuana or less for personal use. Instead, it would be a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine. The cannabis also would be confiscated.

What’s considered “personal use?”

Smoking pot in a moving vehicle, in public areas, or outdoors on private property within 10 feet of a street, sidewalk or other area generally accessible to the public would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $200 and imprisonment of up to five days.

When does the new rule start?

In six months. Simple possession remains a criminal offense for anyone under 18. Marijuana remains considered an illegal narcotic under federal law.

What was the old rule?

Violators previously could be fined up to $1,150 plus sentenced to six months in jail.

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/2015/06/19/police-seek-guidance-delaware-marijuana-law/28993931/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *