A bill introduced by Democratic lawmakers in Delaware would allow adults to possess marijuana without fear of prosecution. The move puts Delaware with 20 other states that have similarly decided to weaken penalties surrounding non-medical use of marijuana.
According to Reuters, the bill would allow for adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for their own personal consumption. It isn’t a bill to allow for the free trade of pot or a marijuana industry, but it is a significant step.
Currently, marijuana possession is a misdemeanor offense that carries the potential for jail time and a fine of $1,150.
In addition to allowing possession, the bill would also reduce the find for possessing marijuana in a public place to $100.
Fifteen House Democrats so far support the bill, but Republicans are already voicing their opposition.
Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson said he wouldn’t support the bill, calling marijuana a “pathway to greater drug use.” His sentiment is shared by many who oppose the legalization of marijuana and the weakening of current laws across the country.
“So many people’s entry into the criminal justice system involves possession or use of very small amounts of marijuana,” said state Senator Bryan Townsend. “In my mind, marijuana is not in the same grouping as a lot of the drugs we need to be focusing our efforts on.”
The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Helene Keeley says she isn’t confident the bill will pass, but she is hopeful.
“Should we be spending millions of taxpayer dollars to incarcerate people for possessing an ounce of marijuana? Is it the best use of law enforcement to bust people with a small amount of marijuana in their pocket?” Keeley asked. “Many other states have been moving in this direction for some time, and we should have that conversation. We need to evaluate whether our laws are having the desired effect and how they should evolve.”
Governor Jack Markell says he is open to discussions “about changing the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana” himself.
The latest polling information from the Marijuana Policy Project suggests that 68% of Delaware voters support lessening the penalties for possession, a figure their elected officials may want to take note of.