Delaware cannabis consumers lobby for marijuana legalization

 (file/NewsWorks)

(file/NewsWorks)

Medical marijuana was legalized in Delaware in 2011, and now cannabis consumers want state leaders to consider legalizing the drug for personal use. 

“We have decades of misinformation, the propaganda model has been rampant in this country for over 70 years,” said Zoe Patchell, spokeswoman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana. 

Patchell is among those in Delaware who are lobbying lawmakers to create legislation that would allow adults to legally purchase and consume marijuana. Supporters argue that the drug is natural, safe and less harmful than alcohol.

To date, both Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Colorado is expected to receive $67 million in tax revenue and licensing fees this year.

“Cannabis is the must used illicit drug in the world,” said Patchell. “It creates significant economic revenue. Where do you want that money going? Do you want it going to the gangs and the cartels that use the money for firearms or do you want it going into the states and communities?”

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have eased up on marijuana users, ending jail time for those caught holding small amounts of the drug.

According to statistics provided by NORML, Delaware has the 12th highest arrest rate for marijuana possession, and has one of the harshest personal-use penalties in the nation.

“A single joint is a Class B misdemeanor and can result to up to three months in jail and can result in a $1,000 fine,” Patchell explained.

She added that 47 percent of all drug arrests in Delaware are marijuana-related and that Delaware spends more than $13 million per year prosecuting non-violent cannabis possession cases.

“That’s a lot of misplaced manpower and misplaced resources,” Patchell said.

68 percent of Delawareans in support

A recent poll commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project found that 68 percent of Delawareans support removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession.

Despite this suggestion of support, Gov. Jack Markell has indicated that he is not in a hurry to rush any marijuana legislation.  

“Colorado and Washington are going forward, everybody from across the country can keep an eye out. I have no idea what the unintended consequences might be,” Markell said during an interview on WHYY’s Radio Times in February. “Maybe there won’t be any, maybe there will, but I don’t feel sufficiently confident in understanding what could happen to say it might be a good thing in Delaware.”

Since passing the medical marijuana law in 2011, the state has issued a few dozen medical marijuana ID cards to patients who qualify. However, the locations where individuals could purchase the drug, known as “compassion centers,” have not yet opened due to federal roadblocks. 

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