- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2015

Delaware’s new marijuana decriminalization law goes into effect Friday, which makes possession of up to 1 ounce of pot punishable by a fine instead of jail time.

“There will be some confusion because people may think marijuana is legal now, and that is not the case,” New Castle County Police Chief Elmer Setting told the News Journal’s Delawareonline.com on Wednesday. “Hopefully, they read and understand the law.”

Delaware will become the 19th state in the U.S. to remove jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Missouri has a similar law that will go into affect in 2017, said the Marijuana Policy Project, which bills itself as the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization.

“Delaware’s marijuana policy is about to become a lot more reasonable,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement on Thursday. “Most people agree adults should not face jail time or the life-altering consequences of a criminal record just for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol. Taxpayers certainly don’t want to foot the bill for it, and fortunately they will not have to any longer.”

State Sen. Colin Bonini, a Dover Republican, disagrees and told Delawareonline.com: “Advocates will say otherwise, but it is absolutely a gateway drug.”

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed HB 39 into law on June 18.

“Under current Delaware law, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of a $575 fine and three months in jail,” the Marijuana Policy Project explained. “Once HB 39 takes effect, the possession or private use of one ounce or less of marijuana will no longer trigger criminal penalties or create a criminal record for adults 21 years of age and older. Instead, it will be a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine. Adults between the ages of 18 and 20 will face the same $100 civil fine for their first offense, then an unclassified misdemeanor for subsequent offenses, which they can have expunged from their records when they reach age 21. Marijuana possession by minors and public consumption by people of any age will remain misdemeanors.”

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