A new law decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana has opened a new set of questions for Delaware law enforcement.
“We have to talk with the attorney general,” said New Castle County Police Chief Elmer Setting on Friday, the day after Gov. Jack Markell signed the measure.
The legislation, which takes effect in six months, eliminates criminal penalties for possession by an adult of 1 ounce of cannabis or less for personal use. A violation will be considered a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine and would not become part of a person’s criminal record.
“It’s going to be similar to having an open can of alcohol” in public, Setting said.
A violation currently is categorized as a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of up to $1,150 and six months in jail.
The legislation will not change any rules regarding medical marijuana or penalties for operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs. Selling pot also will remain banned. Smoking marijuana in a moving vehicle, in public areas, or outdoors on private property within 10 feet of a street, sidewalk or other area generally accessible to the public will be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $200 and imprisonment of up to five days.
“People should do this in their own homes …,” said state Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Democrat, who sponsored the legislation, House Bill 39. “It should not be done in cars. It should be done in the privacy of your own home.”
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