Delaware Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession

Many still remain quite vocal in the opposition to decriminalization of marijuana and legalization of marijuana, yet despite these opponents, each year more and more states are moving closer to complete legalization.

imprisonment1.jpgAccording to a recent news article from the LA Times, the governor of Delaware has just signed a bill decriminalizing the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana and the use of marijuana in a private area. Smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana in public would still be considered a misdemeanor criminal offense that is punishable by a maximum fine of $200 or up to five days in jail.

As our Los Angeles medical marijuana attorneys can explain, decriminalization is not the same as legalization. Decriminalization means that, while something is not treated as a crime where someone could be arrested and booked like any other criminal charge, the police can still issue a citation requiring the offender to pay a fine. This is similar to any non-criminal moving violation, such as making an illegal U-turn.

The governor signed this particular piece of legislation almost immediately after it was passed. It is very similar to the decriminalization of marijuana laws already passed in California, New York, Massachusetts, and various other states. Meanwhile, Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia have elected to make marijuana completely legal, so long as quantities are limited.

As spokesperson for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) said the fact that the governor was so quick to sign the new decriminalization bill clearly shows how the national attitude toward marijuana legislation and prohibition is far more relaxed than it has been in the past 50 years.

While this this was the last decriminalization or legalization law still pending in states across the nation, it is believed next year there will be renewed efforts in California, Ohio, and Michigan. For example, an Ohio-based legalization organization has drafted a bill that aims to legalize possession and consumption of marijuana, but they expect the governor in that state will fight much harder to prevent it. as he is said to have hopes of becoming the next Republican presidential nominee.

With decriminalization of marijuana, there are also often changes to whether or not police can use the alleged smell of marijuana as probable cause to search or even stop a car. There are many criminal cases in which an officer claims to smell the odor of burnt or unburned marijuana as a reasonable articulable suspicion to stop a motor vehicle. It doesn’t even matter if the officer never actually finds any marijuana during a search, but the test is not whether the officer’s suspicions were ultimately correct, but whether or not he or she had a reasonable suspicion. This can get ridiculous, as officers routinely claim they stopped a car because, as they were driving by with windows down, they smelled the odor of unburned marijuana, and, after a search, find a dime bag of marijuana in the center console of the car. While it is unbelievable this was actually capable of being detected by an officer in a passing car, it happens all the time.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:

Delaware decriminalized marijuana this week: Here are the states that may be next, June 15, 2015, LA Times

More Blog Entries:
San Diego’s First Legal Marijuana Dispensary Opens Doors, April 5, 2015, Los Angeles Medical Marijuana Lawyer Blog