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Citations for Marijuana Possession Increase Despite Decriminalization

Medical Cannabis

Delaware decriminalized possession of marijuana in 2015, and recent data from Delaware CAN shows a significant increase in citations since 2016. But public consumption and driving while using marijuana citations have decreased.

In 2016, there were 4,765 citations issued for marijuana possession, the Cape Gazette reports. The data shows that there were 5,613 citations issued in 2017 and 5,981 issued in 2018. A press release regarding the data was issued and in that releases, it comments that “the increase in law enforcement contact for cannabis possession is a serious problem”.

Zoe Patchell, President of Delaware CAN said, “Cannabis prohibition is the gateway into the criminal justice system. The data shows that in 2018 alone, an average of 13 people a day had police contact for cannabis possession, meaning that 13 times a day, law enforcement were pulled off the streets, away from real public safety needs, to process a non-violent, victimless cannabis possession offense.”

The attorney general, Kathy Jennings, requested the arrest data as part of the state’s review of its criminal justice system.

The AG’s spokesperson, Carl Kanefsky points at the data in a more positive way though. He put into perspective that some 12,000 civil citations for marijuana possession were issued that did not filter over into the criminal justice system.

Although more citations are being issued, they are not followed up with criminal charges and aren’t clogging up the court system.

Kanefsky said, “While the Attorney General believes that Delaware still has work to do to achieve a more fair and equal criminal justice system, she also believes that the diversion of minor drug offenders from more severe consequences, including prison or charges resulting in criminal records, is a step in the right direction.”