Del. State Senate Advances Marijuana Legalization Bill


The Delaware State Senate has passed legislation that removes any penalties for adults who possess small amounts of marijuana, giving the bill final legislative approval and sending it to Governor John Carney for his consideration.

The vote on House Bill 371 came one week after approval from the House of Representatives. It would take away the current penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana by anyone older than 21. Possession of more than one ounce of marijuana and public consumption would remain unclassified misdemeanors.

“This is a historic day for Delawareans, who overwhelmingly supported the legalization of marijuana,” State Senator Trey Paradee, D-Dover, lead Senate sponsor said. “I want to thank the many advocates who have worked so hard on this issue for many years, far longer frankly than should have been necessary. I also want to thank my colleagues in the Senate for acting quickly once a bill reached our chamber to end 50 years of prohibition and criminalization that historically has been unjustly and inequitably applied to people of color. My sincere hope is that this vote today also represents another major step toward replacing the illegal marijuana market with a thriving industry that will create good-paying jobs for the residents of our state.” 

“Today is the result of years of hard work, advocacy, dedication, and most of all, patience. Thousands of residents know that the prohibition against marijuana is an outdated policy that needs to be changed. During this very involved process, we have heard from numerous members of the public – advocates, veterans, retired law enforcement officers, educators and even faith leaders – who have overwhelmingly voiced support for legalizing adult recreational marijuana,” State Representative Ed Osienski, D-Brookside, lead House sponsor said. “I’m grateful to my colleagues on both sides of the Legislative Hall for passing this bill, and I look forward to continuing this process until Delaware is poised to establish a new, legal industry in our state.” 

The House Appropriations Committee has cleared a companion bill, House Bill 372, that sets up a legal framework for regulation, cultivation and sale of marijuana and covers licensing procedures. 3/5ths majority passage would be required for HB 372 to pass.

“We are thankful that this important criminal justice reform is finally being prioritized,” Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network (Delaware CAN) co-founder and director Zoë Patchell said. “The time to end penalizing adults for a simple cannabis possession offense, conduct that is now legal in eighteen states and D.C, is long overdue.”

“The collateral consequences of the thousands of cannabis possession offenses that occur every year in Delaware extend far beyond fines,” Delaware chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) executive Director Laura Sharer said. “It is time to right these immense wrongs. We can now work to accept cannabis use as an issue of personal choice, not criminal behavior.”