This week, Delaware decriminalizes marijuana and with it comes questions. Here is what you need to know:
When does marijuana decriminalization begin?
The law takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday December 18th, 2015 – exactly six months after Gov. Jack Markell signed House Bill 39 into law.
What does the legislation mean?
Anyone 21 and older can possess up to one ounce of leaf marijuana and use the drug privately without facing criminal sanctions. The penalty for possession will be a $100 civil penalty – with no threat of jail time, arrest or a criminal record.
What if I’m under 21?
Marijuana possession will remain a criminal offense for anyone under 18. Anyone between age 18 and 21 will face criminal penalties only if it is his or her second or subsequent offense. In these cases, a person will also be allowed to petition for expungement from his or her record after age 21, as long as no other offenses have been committed.
Can the police still seize marijuana?
Yes. Even when imposing a civil penalty, the police can confiscate the drug.
Can marijuana be used in public?
Marijuana is prohibited in public, including sidewalks, streets, alleys, parking lots, parks, playgrounds, stores and restaurants. It also cannot be used within 10 feet of these areas, and at locations within 10 feet of entrances, exits, windows and ventilation intakes for public or private buildings.
What if I use marijuana in public?
You can be criminally charged with an misdemeanor if you are caught using or possessing marijuana in public or in a vehicle. This is punishable by a fine of no more than $200 and/or imprisonment of no more than five days.
Is drug paraphernalia also decriminalized?
The penalties for drug paraphernalia were also modified. Possessing drug paraphernalia for use in connection with up to an ounce of marijuana is punishable by up to a $100 fine. But anyone charged under the civil penalty for marijuana will not face additional civil penalties for possessing paraphernalia.
How will the fines be administered?
Civil penalties can be charged as an e-ticket, and the offender can elect to pay the fine through the voluntary assessment center. If the person chooses to fight the offense, the case will be tried in the Justice of the Peace Court.
When will marijuana become legal in Delaware?
Legalization is unlikely to occur in 2016 because Markell has said he would not support the measure. But advocates have already launched statewide efforts to push for marijuana legalization in 2017, after his term ends.