The fight to legalize marijuana in Delaware

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Courtesy of Katherine Hitt
Delaware seeks to be added to the growing list of states that have legalized recreational marijuana.


Sen. Margaret Rose Henry is hoping to add Delaware to the list of states that have legalized recreational marijuana use. In her bill, expected to be introduced in January 2017, marijuana use will be legalized for those 21 and over.

The Delaware legislature has approved the legalization of medicinal marijuana and decriminalized recreational use, but Henry’s past successes do not guarantee full legalization will pass.

Gov. Jack Markell in June 2015 signed the decriminalization bill, House Bill No. 39. It specifies that personal use of marijuana is a civil offense with a fine of $100. This was reduced from the original sentence of up to $575 and three months jail time for possession. For people between the ages of 18 and 21, the first offense is a civil violation as long as they are in possession of less than an ounce. Any subsequent charges become unclassified criminal misdemeanors.

As for those under 18, any possession of marijuana is a criminal offense. However, if a person under the age of 21 has a criminal charge related to marijuana, they can get it expunged once they turn 21 years old. In order for this to apply, the law requires that the first offense is their only offense.

House Bill No. 39 also states in the summary that “other compounds, derivatives and preparations of marijuana remain criminal in any quantity,” which means that only the leaf portion of the marijuana plant has been decriminalized. Possession and consumption in a moving vehicle also is specifically stated as a criminal activity.

Seth Belschner, an employee of Wonderland Records on S. Main Street agrees with legalizing marijuana in Delaware.

“Money that comes from it going to education, the medical benefits…are amazing,” Belschner said. “In most places where marijuana has become legal, [use of] hard drugs sees an amazing drop rate, overdoses see an amazing drop rate.”

Markell has been cautious in the past when it comes to supporting the legalization of marijuana, saying he will not sign a bill that fully legalizes it but remaining supportive of its decriminalization. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. John Carney has also made comments in the past about supporting medicinal use but wanting to wait on legalization.

Sen. Colin Bonini, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, told The News Journal that he agrees with the legalization of marijuana.

Junior Mike Ashley, who has stickers stating things like “make marijuana legal” and “no more drug war” covering his laptop, also agrees.

“I’m not a weed smoker but at the same time I realize that there are economic and societal benefits that could come about from legalization,” Ashley said.

He went on to explain that marijuana on the black market is “absolutely unregulated,” which is risky considering there are different types of marijuana. These types, or “strains,” are indica, sativa and a combination of the two referred to as hybrid. They each offer a different type of experience, which means the effect on a person can vary depending on what type the person is exposed to.

“They will smoke one strain and they’ll think ‘oh, I smoked weed and it went well for me and this is cool’ and then they’ll smoke another strain, not knowing it’s another strain, and they’ll freak out and say ‘this weed s— isn’t good for me’ when it turns out it’s actually just different strains,” Ashley said.

The city of Denver, where possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is legal, has specific labeling requirements for what they call “retail marijuana.” Sellers have to list the solvents and chemicals that were used to produce the concentration on the packaging.

“Imagine if alcohol were illegal and every single time you bought a bottle from an alcohol dealer, you had no idea what kind of alcohol it was,” Ashley said. “You don’t know if it was beer, vodka, tequila, wine. It can be like ‘Oh yeah, this is tequila, trust me. 25 percent alcohol content’ and you drink it and it turns out it’s s—– vodka with 40 percent alcohol content. You’re gonna get a bit too f—– up or maybe not as f—– as you wanted to.”

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