House Folly, Decriminalization Passes House: Go Big or Go Home

It is stupid to give someone a criminal record for smoking marijuana. It is a problem House Bill 39 is attempting to address. Rep. Helene Keeley’s bill makes it civil penalty. It is the exact wrong approach.

My city is suffering from drug related killings and violence. This bill will empower the illegal trade by preventing the police from doing anything when they find weed. Most heroin busts seem to come out of they pull a car over for speeding and smell weed. They search the car and find 100 bags of heroin. If we pass this, the legal merchants won’t be able to sell it because they won’t be able to get it in profitable quantities, but the criminals will be shielded. They will continue to destroy our neighborhoods. It also won’t meet the objective of freeing up the criminal justice system. Most police officers use common sense. They won’t arrest someone for small amounts of weed. If it is just a ticket, the pressure will be to give it out to get more revenue for cash strapped cities and New Castle County. The poor won’t be able to afford $200 and will end up in jail for a few days to pay it off for default of the fine. The justice system will become more burdened not less.

If you legalize weed, then at least you take it out of the hands of the underground drug gangs. They no longer have an entry level high that they can use to recruit for the hard stuff. You can regulate it better. You get tax money to deal with the social problems. You hinder the criminal gangs and put money and jobs into the legitimate economy. You no longer destroy lives of talented and promising people because they made a bad choice. People who would medically benefit will no longer have to jump through hoops to get better.

If you think it is good policy, go all the way. One of the pieces of logic supporting this bill is so kids aren’t criminals for making a mistake and trying weed. Well as amended this bill keeps it a crime for use and possession for those under 18. What logic can justify that? Ruin kids lives with criminal records but not adults? Don’t be double minded. You create the worst of both worlds. We don’t get the tax money, but get the social problems. We empower the drug cartels not local business people who will respect the law. We put our kids in a room with people who will sell them crack, crank, and whatever else. Public policy is not about feeling good. It is about doing good. This bill is a folly. We need leaders who will be bold and thoughtful. It appears that we are a long way from that.

HB 39 SYNOPSIS: The purpose of this bill is to decriminalize the possession or private use of a personal use quantity of marijuana. More specifically, persons who possess one ounce or less of marijuana shall be assessed a civil penalty that will not become part of a criminal record and must forfeit the marijuana. Likewise, the private use or consumption of less than an ounce of marijuana shall be punishable by a civil penalty. Persons charged with one of these civil violations are not subject to incarceration. Furthermore, under Section 2 of this bill the public use or consumption of an ounce or less of marijuana will be an unclassified misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $200 or imprisonment for not more than 5 days. This penalty is in line with the penalty for possession or consumption of an open container of alcohol in most municipalities in the state. This bill does not in any manner modify Title 21 driving offenses nor does it prohibit municipal regulation of marijuana use, consumption, or possession. A person charged or assessed a civil violation in connection with a personal use quantity of marijuana cannot also be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. A person who is not charged with personal use quantity of marijuana possession can still be charged or assessed a civil violation of possession of drug paraphernalia. This bill does not repeal or modify existing laws relating to medical marijuana or penalties for the operation of motor vehicles under the influence.

7 thoughts on “House Folly, Decriminalization Passes House: Go Big or Go Home”

  1. David, I concur with your line of reasoning on this bill, that merely decriminalizing marijuana is not enough.
    The Governor and General Assembly are attempting to find ways to raise tax revenue without angering any specific group, well I suggest we follow Colorado’s example and legalize possessing certain amounts. That’s a business that the government can heavily tax, instead of taxing the casinos 43% of their gross income, making them lay off people.
    The drug dealers will stop selling it because they won’t make the same money as before it became legal.

  2. The “logic” you complain about was not logic at all, but a compromise. The roadblock to full legalization is the state police.

  3. I largely agree with David on this one, but while flawed, it is a step in the right direction.

    Take the age thing for example. Yes, the situation remains unchanged for those under 18. However, it is vastly improved for young people over the age of 18. So, on balance, the number of “lives ruined by criminal marijuana charges” goes down. You can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Any scheme which relaxes or eliminates penalties associated with marijuana is going to have an age provision in it somewhere. It’s not as if teens have ever given up wanting to get their hands on alcohol either.

  4. David is 100% right on this. We need to take the marijuana business away from the street dealers.

  5. Some people claim marijuana is a gateway drug, but the fact that marijuana is illegal, is probably the real gateway that leads people to associate with drug dealers and the other drugs they sell.

  6. This is probably true. We also need to face the fact that a certain percentage of people will be hopelessly addicted to something- crack, heroin, booze- and never be productive.

  7. You are right. It strikes me as funny that Delaware Democrats can’t even get something as simple as this right. They have to find some way to make it worse. It is like coming to a fork in the road and instead of turning right or left, saying that you can’t decide and going straight into the ditch.

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