Despite objection from some law enforcement officials and Republicans, the Delaware state Senate approved a new law on June 18 that will decriminalize the possession and usage of small amounts of marijuana, with Democratic Governor Jack Markell already having signed the bill shortly after the vote.
With the new legislation, which officially begins in six months, citizens will now be allowed to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and use the drug privately without receive punishment, such as fines or being arrested, Newsweek reported. If citizens are caught with more of the drug than the intended amount, they will face a $100 fine.
The state House of Representatives passed the legislation in early June, with the Senate following shortly thereafter. In both chambers, opposition was strong from Republicans, who are the minority in both houses.
“This is a vote we’re going to really, really regret. Would you want your kid smoking weed? I think the answer is overwhelmingly no,” state Sen. Colin Bonini, a Republican, said before the vote.
Robert Capecchi, a lobbyist with the Marijuana Policy Project located in the nation’s capital, said “marijuana is an objectively less harmful substance than alcohol, and most Americans now agree it should be treated that way. Delaware has taken an important step toward adopting a more sensible marijuana policy,” he said after the votes were cast.
Nineteen other states and Washington D.C. have already implemented legislation that makes it more difficult for law enforcement officials to arrest citizens for drug possession, including decriminalizing marijuana. However, the legislation in Delaware does give some support to officials in that the law specifically limits where the drug can be used and by what age group.
For example, it will still remain a criminal charge if the drug is used in a public place, an area identified as within 10 feet of any window or sidewalk. Also, no one under the age of 21 is allowed to possess the drug, USA Today reported.