Residents in Delaware can now have a small amount of marijuana without the risk of going to jail. Under new marijuana reform laws, a person 21 years or older caught carrying up to an ounce of pot will be given a civil violation and fined up to $100.
The reformed legislation is slightly more restrictive on anyone between 18 and 21 years of age. Younger adults found carrying cannabis two or more times will be charged with a crime and face possible jail time.
The Delaware law also decriminalizes carrying marijuana paraphernalia. Previously, even if someone did not have pot on their person, but was caught carrying equipment related to smoking would be charged with a crime. Like someone possessing cannabis, it is now a civil violation, punishable by a $100 fine.
Delaware’s marijuana laws are still somewhat strict when compared to other states who have legalized the drug’s use. Currently Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia allow marijuana use for both medical and recreational purposes. Including Delaware, 23 states let residents use marijuana for medical reasons.
Even though the Delaware law decriminalizes carrying small amounts of pot, police will still take you into custody and the goods will be seized. You will not be charged with a criminal violation, but a court appearance will be required.
According to a USA Today report, other states are expected to pass pot reform legislation in the near future. Massachusetts, Nevada, California, New York, Vermont, Minnesota, Connecticut, and Maryland are all working on updating marijuana laws to allow recreational use. As of now, residents in those states found carrying small amounts are subject to a fine of no more than $600.
In a previous Inquisitr report, the state of Kentucky is also debating the benefits of legalizing marijuana.
The new Delaware laws decriminalize marijuana, which is not the same as legalization. Decriminalized marijuana translates to reduced penalties for those caught with the drug. In most cases, like Delaware, the state does not prosecute or give jail time to those found with small amounts. The personal use of marijuana comes with a potential civil violation instead of criminal charges.
Since marijuana became illegal nationwide 78 years ago, attitudes towards its use have changed. In 1969, only 12 percent of Americans supported legalizing its use. Yet today, an overwhelming majority want the ban removed.
The driving factor behind legalization is the high number of users nationwide. Current estimates show 12.3 percent of American 12 and older smoke marijuana, while in some places, like Rhode Island, use is as high as 20 percent.
Local economies where marijuana has been legalized and taxed have experienced a tremendous windfall. In Colorado, $700 million of pot was sold in the very first year it was legal. Roughly $313 million of that was designated recreational. State agencies received about $63 million of additional tax revenue and $13 million was paid for licenses and fees.
Despite the potential benefit to the economy and state regulators, the new Delaware marijuana laws have police departments on edge.
“Someone in possession of this if they don’t have it divided up into smaller packages could argue the point that it was intended for personal use when it is actually for sale.” Lieutenant Edward Huey with the Milford Police Department, told 47 ABC.
Even though the new regulation will allow more time for police officers to spend on more serious problems, Lieutenant Huey worries drug dealers will find it easier to escape the law.
“Today’s criminals are more apt to make adjustments. We’ll probably see people who are actually dealing with marijuana, carry it in packages like this, right up to the maximum amount,” he added.
Former Delaware marijuana laws meant someone caught carrying the plant would spend up to six months in jail. Selling marijuana is still considered a felony and smoking pot in public, in a moving vehicle, or even outdoors on private property is still considered a misdemeanor.
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