Juveniles in Delaware could soon receive the same civil penalties as adults when facing marijuana infractions, instead of entering the criminal justice system.
The Delaware Senate announced Thursday passage of Senate Bill 45, which could make possession or consumption of marijuana by anyone under 21 years old a civil, rather than criminal, infraction.
“This is one of those cleanup bills that can seem small but is actually very important,” said Sen. Trey Paradee (D-Dover), sponsor of the bill. “Making sure that Delaware’s teens aren’t made criminals for the same minor possession charges we just decriminalized for adults is important. It’s fundamentally about fairness and uniformity in our code, but it will also – like many other criminal justice bills this year – ensure that kids aren’t being saddled with criminal records for minor offenses.”
The bill passed by a vote of 13 to 6 with two votes absent.
Delaware Republican Senators Colin Bonini, Gerald W. Hocker, Dave G. Lawson, Brian Pettyjohn, Bryant L. Richardson, and David L. Wilson voted to maintain possession of an ounce or less of marijuana for anyone under the age of 21 an unclassified misdemeanor offense.
Delaware Republican Senator Catherine Cloutier and Democrat Senator John Walsh were absent votes.
Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana was decriminalized for anyone older than 21 in 2015, meaning most adults found in possession of a "limited amount of cannabis" would face a fine of $100, akin to a speeding ticket.
Juveniles still faced the offense being labeled an unclassified misdemeanor.
An amendment to the bill added the previous week allowed for fines between $200 and $500 for a second offense, and an unclassified misdemeanor charge for additional offenses thereafter.