Delaware Bill Would Decriminalize Low-Level Cannabis Possession

A recently-filed Delaware bill would eliminate the possibility of arrest and criminal prosecution for low-level cannabis possession in the state.

House Bill 39 (HB39) aims to alter established law enforcement priorities in the state of Delaware. The legislation has already garnered a vast bicameral array of co-sponsors including State Reps. Helene Keeley (D-3), Paul Baumbach (D-23), Debra Heffernan (D-6), James Johnson (D-16), Quinton Johnson (D-8), John Kowalko (D-25), John Mitchell (D-13), Edward Osienski (D-24), Trey Paradee (D-29), Charles Potter (D-1), John Viola (D-26), and Kimberly Williams (D-19) along with State Sens. Karen Peterson (D-9), Margaret Henry (D-2), and Bryan Townsend (D-11).

If enacted, HB39 would change the Delaware state code to make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil infraction rather than a criminal offense. Individuals guilty of possession would be mandated to pay a $100 fine. Public use of up to one ounce would carry no more than five days in jail and a $200 fine.

Possession of more than one ounce of marijuana would be considered an unclassified misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of no more than $575 and up to three months in jail, unless an 'aggravating factor' such as the crime being committed in a school zone, while fleeing law enforcement, or involving a minor under the age of 18. In those cases, possession becomes a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail, and a fine no more than $1,150.

Although the passage of HB39 would not mean an immediate end to legal restrictions against marijuana, it is still a great step in the right direction. Decriminalization efforts can often lead the way toward more substantive reforms down the line. After the hysterical 'Reefer Madness' fantasies of the prohibitionists do not come to fruition, it is easier to make the argument for full legalization of the plant.

Activists should embrace any opportunity that they have to make it more difficult for people to be locked in cages for the non-violent non-crime of marijuana possession. The end of the federal drug war is on its way whether detractors like it or not. Measures like HB39 can help grease the wheels on our way toward that inevitable goal!


If you live in the state of Delaware, contact your state legislators immediately. It is important for you to politely urge them to co-sponsor this important bill. That is how you can make a difference in the fight against cannabis prohibition.

If you live in different state, contact your state legislators and urge them to introduce a supporting bill to HB39 such as our P.E.A.C.E (Preventing Excessive Allocations for Cannabis Enforcement) Act.