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Delaware AG outlines drug, gun priorities

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn talks Monday about his legislative priorities during a speech at the University of Delaware's Osher Institute of Lifelong Learning in Wilmington. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn talks Monday about his legislative priorities during a speech at the University of Delaware's Osher Institute of Lifelong Learning in Wilmington. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

While Attorney General Matt Denn talked about a number of drug reforms he’s advocating, he’s not on board with the recent push to legalize marijuana in Delaware.

Denn spoke Monday afternoon to a large class at the University of Delaware’s Osher Institute of Lifelong Learning. He talked about efforts to reduce the way Delaware’s drug laws target offenders based on their geography. For instance, under state law, possessing illegal drugs within 100 yards of a park or a school or a place of worship is an aggravating factor when drug offenders are sentenced.

Denn said while those laws were written to keep drugs away from children, the impact of those laws has been to target offenders in urban areas rather than in rural areas. “That inequity is built into the statute and it’s an inequity that has a disproportionate impact on areas of our state with higher than average populations of African American Delawareans, higher than average population of Delawareans living below the poverty line, and we really ought to address it.” 

Denns plan to address that inequity is to more clearly address the problem those geographic boundaries were established- to protect children from drugs. Denn said he will push for legislation next year that would specifically target adults who sell drugs to children. “Right now under our statute, we don’t mandate jail time for adults who sell drugs to children,” Denn said. “That is a much more direct approach to the problem.”

Denn did not however mention the plan by state Senator Margaret Rose Henry, a Wilmington Democrat, to introduce legislation legalizing marijuana in Delaware. Asked about that plan after his talk, Denn reiterated his opposition to those legalization efforts.

Denn also wants more weight given to a juvenile’s record when it comes to guns as they become adults. “Under the Delaware criminal code as it’s currently written, violent felonies committed as juveniles are written out of the mandatory sentencing provisions,” Denn said. “Young adults who have been adjudicated to violent crimes in the past, who know that they’re not supposed to be carrying a gun…I think it’s critically important that these individuals face certain jail time, the certainty of a real punishment.” 

The Delaware General Assembly will reconvene in Dover in January.

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