(Photo by Flickr user Carlos Gracia, used under a Creative Commons license)
On Monday, Delaware’s new attorney general, Kathy Jennings, laid out her plan for criminal justice reform in the state — and, among other things, announced that her office won’t prosecute for less than 175 grams of marijuana, or just over six ounces.
WHYY reports that Jennings announced a whopping 30 policy chances, including discouraging judges from setting cash or secured bail, a reduction of “stacking” sentences, prison alternatives for non-violent offenders, mental health and drug treatment before prison, a reduction of trying teenagers as adults and support for pardoning people who were convicted then rehabilitated.
“This is the first step in an overall effort to make sure our justice system is more fair and balanced for everybody regardless of the color our skin, the size of our wallet or the ZIP code we live in,” Jennings said at the press conference. At least some of the policy changes are expected to be legislated into the state criminal code.
Cash bail, in particular, has long been a hot-button issue in criminal justice reform circles, as it puts people behind bars who may not have committed a crime (and are legally innocent) simply because they can’t make the bail payment. African Americans, who make up 23 percent of the Delaware population and 58 percent of Wilmington, are disproportionately affected.
Marijuana laws are also disproportionately used against African Americans and Latinos in the U.S. AG Jennings’ policy change to increase the amount of weed a person can posses in Delaware from one ounce (as per the marijuana decriminalization bill signed by Gov. Jack Markell in 2015) to six before facing criminal charges is a huge change that, in theory, will help prevent the system from using weed as a tool of mass incarceration.
It also essentially makes it legal — OK, technically not a crime — to use weed for non-medical purposes, minus the public dispensaries. By law you can still get a $100 wrist-slap for marijuana use, but legalization is getting closer. We can almost taste the pot cookies.-30-
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