The governor of Delaware signed a bill into law that amends cannabis possession penalties for minors with immediate effect.

The measure – House Bill 241 – was voted through the legislature with strong majorities in June.

The new law signed by Gov. John Carney instructs police officers who find a person under the age of 21 with marijuana to refer the individual for counseling, treatment or some other intervention service instead of paying a fine of $100.

The move follows a 2019 law change in Delaware that saw first-time marijuana possession offenses for under 21s reduced from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil violation.

HB 241 further removes a provision in the 2019 law that compels the offender to pay double the fine if it remains unpaid after three months.

Under Delaware’s marijuana laws, possession of less than one ounce is decriminalized, while less than 6.2 ounces is considered a misdemeanor.

Carney recently signed other marijuana-related legislation into law as well. Senate Bill 60 took effect in June and expands access to medical marijuana by increasing the number of healthcare practitioners authorized to recommend the use of cannabis as a treatment.

Delaware lawmakers had also deliberated over more comprehensive marijuana legalization legislation this past session. House Bill 150 would legalize possession and regulate sales of marijuana for adults 21 and older, but the sponsor behind the bill postponed a vote to give lawmakers more time to consider its amendments. The measure is expected to be looked at once again next year though, and would require a supermajority in order to pass.

Despite polls showing a majority in favor of legal cannabis in Delaware since 2015, progress in the legislature has been slow. A 2018 bill to legalize marijuana came up short on votes in the House while several other bills over the past few years have received approval from legislative committees but failed to garner enough support for a vote in either chamber.

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