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Following the signing of House Bill 39 by Gov. Jack Markell (D) on Thursday, June 18, Delaware has become the 20th state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The measure was introduced by Rep. Helene Keeley (D) in the house and sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chair Margaret Rose Henry (D) in the Senate, where it was approved by a 12-9 vote without receiving support from any Republican senators.

The bill will remove criminal penalties for an adult in possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use. Marijuana possession will now be considered a civil offense and punishable by a $100 fine. Marijuana sales will still be illegal throughout the state of Delaware.

The current state marijuana laws have had an inordinate impact on the African-American population. According to a recent study by the American Civil Liberties Union, African-Americans in Delaware are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites.

With a similar bill awaiting Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature in Illinois, the number of states decriminalizing smaller amounts of marijuana is continuing to grow. Robert Capecchi, the deputy director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, commended Delaware for their progressive stance on marijuana:

“We commend Gov. Markell and the Delaware Legislature for moving the state forward and leaving its antiquated marijuana possession law behind. Adults in Delaware will no longer be branded as criminals simply for consuming a substance that is undeniably less harmful than alcohol. Law enforcement officials will be able to spend more time addressing serious crimes instead of arresting and prosecuting adults for simple marijuana possession.”

The new marijuana laws and regulations will take effect in six months.

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