The Delaware House of Representatives Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday approved a bill 5-4 that would remove criminal penalties and potential jail time for possession of a small amount of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket. The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.
HB 39, introduced by Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South), would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine with no possibility of jail. Under current Delaware law, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $575 fine and up to three months in jail.
“This is a modest, commonsense policy change that is long overdue in Delaware,” Rep. Keeley said. “Simply possessing a small amount of marijuana does not warrant jail time and the other serious consequences of a criminal conviction. The punishment should fit the crime, not cause more harm than the crime.”
More than two-thirds of Delaware voters (68 percent) support removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession and making it a civil offense, punishable by a fine of up to $100 with no possibility of jail time, according to a statewide survey conducted in March by Public Policy Polling. Only 26 percent said they were opposed. Full results are available at http://www.mpp.org/DEpoll.