The Delaware Senate approved legislation to remove criminal and civil penalties for adult possession of marijuana. In a 13-7-1 vote, the upper chamber voted to pass HB 371, which legalized the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for individuals aged 21 or older.

“We applaud the Delaware legislature for passing this important legislation,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “The overwhelming majority of Delaware residents support ending their state’s failed prohibition on marijuana, and Governor Carney should respect the will of the people and immediately sign this bill into law.”

He added: “Marijuana prohibition is truly in its death throes, especially on the east coast. If this measure is signed into law, Delaware will join Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, and Maine on the list of eastern seaboard states that have legalized cannabis possession. Maryland will likely be joining them this November. It is time for lawmakers across this country to put themselves on the right side of history and to pass similar laws. The time for justice is now, and the time for our failed and racist prohibition is long gone.”

Separate legislation that seeks to legalize and regulate the retail sale of marijuana and marijuana products is still pending before the legislature, which is expected to see further debate and votes soon. Previous attempts to pass legalization legislation ran into technical hurdles in the Senate, which requires a ⅗ majority vote to approve any measure that creates taxes. HB 371’s sponsor decided to make a second attempt at passing the legislation this year by splitting the package into two separate pieces of legislation, one that deals exclusively with legalizing possession for adults (which only required a simple majority) and another that addresses retail and regulatory issues. 

“The collateral consequences of the thousands of cannabis possession offenses that occur every year in Delaware extend far beyond fines,” said Laura Sharer, Executive Director of the local Delaware chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “It’s time to right these immense wrongs. We can now work to accept cannabis use as an issue of personal choice, not criminal behavior.”

Jax James, NORML’s State Policy Manager, said: “After a turbulent few sessions trying to get this legislation across the finish line, the hard work of activists and coalition members in Delaware are bearing fruit. We are hopeful that the Governor will sign HB 371 into law and that lawmakers will also move forward with separate legislation to bring regulated and safe access to cannabis to Delaware.”

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