-by Matt Buckworth

With all of the media coverage surrounding marijuana laws and marijuana reform, it is important to know how the current laws impact you and your everyday life.
Contrary to a common misconception, Delaware has not legalized marijuana. Instead, 11 Del. C. §4764(c) decriminalizes a personal use amount of marijuana for individuals that are 21 years of age or older. “Personal use” has been defined as up to one ounce, or approximately 28.2 grams. If you are in possession of a personal use quantity of marijuana, you may be held liable for a civil violation – similar to a parking ticket – and up to a $100 fine.

While that doesn’t sound too bad, most people don’t realize that, in certain circumstances, possession of a personal use quantity of marijuana may lead to criminal charges. For example, if an individual is under 18 years of age, he or she may be charged with an unclassified misdemeanor. Additionally, and probably most surprisingly, if you are between the ages of 18 and 21, and have previously received a civil violation, such conduct is no longer decriminalized. If you possess any amount of marijuana thereafter, you may be criminally prosecuted. It is essentially a “one-and-done” benefit.

It is also important to understand that under subsection (d), any person 18 years of age or older, who uses or consumes up to a personal use quantity in a public area or moving vehicle may be criminally prosecuted for an unclassified misdemeanor – punishable by up to five days incarceration and/or a $200 fine. Finally, if you are in possession of a personal use quantity of marijuana (regardless of your age) and you are also in possession of a firearm, you risk criminal prosecution of felony charges punishable by up to five years incarceration.

Currently, there has been a large push to legalize marijuana. What does this mean? Delaware legislators have proposed a bill that would allow people 21 and older to purchase up to an ounce of cannabis from dozens of stores that would be authorized to sell marijuana manufactured at a number of Delaware grow operations. It is estimated that the industry could generate $22 million in tax revenue for the state, which is facing a large budget deficit.

Right now, marijuana is decriminalized in limited circumstances. But it is important to be conscientious of the current state of the law and how it affects your ability to possess any amount of marijuana. Stay tuned for legislative updates in the near future…