Legislation that makes Delaware the latest state in the country to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana went into effect just after midnight Friday, downgrading a possession charge for people carrying up to an ounce of pot if they are 21 years of age or older from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil violation, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Under the former rules, having pot on your person could result in up to six months of jail time.
People who are 18 to 21 years of age can still face criminal charges if they have been caught with pot two or more times. Conveniently for people who don’t just possess marijuana, possessing marijuana paraphernalia has also been dropped from a criminal violation to a civil violation, punishable by a $100 fine.
Decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana isn’t exactly the most progressive of pot positions in the nation, however. There are four states, plus the District of Columbia, that currently have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana. Those states are Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon. In addition to that, there are 23 states that offer access to medical marijuana, including Delaware.
Legal marijuana policies have proved a financial boon for the local economies that are now allowed to tax sales of the drug. The industry sold $700 million in its first year in Colorado — $386 million in medical marijuana sales and $313 million in sales for recreational uses. That provided $63 million in tax revenue, and an additional $13 million was collected from licenses and fees, the Washington Post reported.
There are several states that are expected to pass legalization to legalize marijuana for recreational use in the near future, including Massachusetts, Nevada, California, New York, Vermont, Minnesota, Connecticut and Maryland, according to USA Today. All of those states except Navada currently impose fines of $200 or less for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Nevada fines violators $600.