Legislation signed into law last June decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses takes effect at midnight tonight.
House Bill 39 reclassifies the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis by those age 21 and over from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a criminal record, to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine only — no arrest, and no criminal record. (Those between the ages of 18 and 21 may face criminal charges, but only if it is their second or subsequent offense.)
The new law also amends the personal possession of marijuana paraphernalia from a criminal to a civil violation. Public use of the substance, as well as marijuana possession while inside a vehicle, remain classified as misdemeanors.
Prior to the law change, Delaware ranked #17 in the nation in per capita marijuana possession arrests.
Delaware’s decriminalization law mimics similar laws in effect in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont — each of which treat minor marijuana possessions as a civil violation.
Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio classify marijuana possession as a misdemeanor punishable by a fine only.
Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, DC previously enacted marijuana decriminalization policies, but have since amended their laws to legalize the plant’s possession and use.
Self-reported marijuana use by teenagers has declined since 2010, according to annual survey data compiled by the University of Michigan and released today.
Authors state that adolescents’ use of cannabis has fallen slightly since 2010, while respondents’ self-reported use of other drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, are at near-record lows. Young people also reported finding it harder to access cannabis, a trend that has stayed consistent since the late-1990s.
The conclusions are consistent with other studies — such as those here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here — finding that the enactment of state laws permitting the use of marijuana for medical or social purposes is not associated with overall rises in cannabis use by young people.
Members of Congress this morning unveiled the 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill, legislation that is responsible for funding the federal government through the 2016 fiscal year. While stand alone marijuana related bills rarely gain traction in Congress, the annual omnibus appropriations bill has become a tool for federal lawmakers to pass marijuana related language into annual spending guidelines.
In last week’s Legislative Round Up, we covered five distinct marijuana provisions that lawmakers sought to include in the final draft of the 2016 spending bill.
We now know that two of these provisions have been included in the omnibus appropriations bill. One measure prevents the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. The other measure prevents the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state industrial hemp research programs. Both measures were initially passed by Congress in 2015, but required reauthorization to extend into 2016.
Unfortunately, separate provisions permitting doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans, and to prevent the V.A. from denying services to veterans because they are state recognized medical marijuana patients were eliminated from the final bill. Senate-backed language seeking to authorize financial institutions to engage in relationships with state-licensed marijuana business was also rejected from the final bill.
Lastly, language prohibiting the District of Columbia from taxing and selling marijuana was included in the annual spending for the second year in the row. Current law allows for residents to grow, possess and share marijuana. But the sale and promotion will be prohibited for at least another year.
While we see success in having kept in place protections for state sponsored medical marijuana and hemp programs, it is nonetheless disappointing that members of Congress continue to unnecessarily insert themselves into a doctor-patient relationship with our country’s veterans and continue to deny licensed businesses access to needed banking services.
No ground has been lost, but Congress should know we’ll be back next year to gain more.
Over half of all people admitted to drug treatment programs for marijuana-related issues over the past decade were referred there by a criminal justice source, according to a report published this month by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
In the years 2003 through 2013, 52 percent of people in drug treatment for marijuana as their ‘primary substance of abuse’ were referred by the criminal justice system. Of those, almost half (44 percent) entered treatment as a component of their probation or parole.
Only 18 percent of marijuana treatment admissions were based upon self-referrals. Primary marijuana admissions were less likely than all other drug-related admissions combined to have been self- or individually referred to treatment.
The data mirrors those of previous federal reports finding that only a small percentage of those entering treatment for marijuana perceive that they are abusing cannabis or have even used the substance recently.
Do you know what your members of Congress think about marijuana legalization? Do you know how they have voted on pending federal marijuana measures? Being a member of the NORML network automatically puts you ahead of most in staying up-to-date on marijuana-related legislation and activism. But we could all use a little help staying on top of our elected officials when it comes to the causes we care about most, right?
That is why we are eager and excited to announce that, for the past six months, NORML has been working on an extensive project with YOU in mind. Congress largely created the mess that is Marijuana Prohibition back in 1937, and all of these years later they’re singularly in the best position politically to actually fixing the problem for federal and state governments.
When 2016 comes around, we want all of our members and supporters to know exactly where their Representatives and Senators stand on the issue of marijuana legalization.
Knowing so will be easy with NORML’s Congressional Scorecard. This scorecard will be an all-encompassing database that assigns a letter grade A through F to every single member of Congress based on how proactive they have been at ending the federal prohibition of marijuana. The grade a member of Congress receives will be based on a number of different factors such as how they have voted on marijuana related legislation, the number of marijuana related bills they have introduced or sponsored, and any public comments they have made on the subject. Here’s an example:
It’s time we focus on Congress and show them that we are paying attention to their actions! If your elected official receives a low grade then you know it’s time to kick the activism into gear and start making your voice heard!
We want as many people as possible to know about this Scorecard and we especially want Congress to know that they are being graded based upon what they are (or are not) doing to end the federal prohibition of marijuana. But we need your help to do that! We are fundraising so we can advertise this scorecard in an outlet we otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Would you consider donating $50 or more to our PAC (Political Action Committee) so we can make this happen?*
In return for your donation of $50 or more, we will send you a new custom designed just for NORML snapback from our friends over at California Grassroots!
*The NORML PAC is a separate, segregated fund of NORML, and under federal law, we can only raise PAC funds from NORML members. Therefore, if you wish to contribute to the NORML PAC, and you are not currently a NORML member, the first $25 of your contribution will be applied to your membership dues.