People caught possessing marijuana in Newark will now face a steeper fine.
City council last week passed an ordinance increasing the fine from $100 to up to $200.
Newark’s fine is now higher than what is specified in state code, which remains $100.
City Solicitor Paul Bilodeau said the increase brings the marijuana fine in line with the fine for underage drinking.
“We just thought it’s sending the wrong message to have an ordinance allowing a $100 fine for possessing marijuana and a higher fine for alcohol. We thought the figure should be the same,” Bilodeau said.
The ordinance passed Nov. 25 also updated the city’s code to match two recent changes to state law.
Marijuana possession has been decriminalized for adults in Delaware since 2015. Earlier this year, the general assembly extended the decriminalization to those under 21 – but only for a first and second offense.
Minors caught with pot in Newark will be fined up to $200 for a first offense and between $300 and $500 for a second offense. A third offense will result in a misdemeanor charge.
Meanwhile, underage drinking has also been decriminalized. Minors caught drinking will face a civil fine but won’t face criminal charges or have the offense appear on their criminal record until they hit their third offense.
“This bill is designed to prevent someone from struggling to find work or housing as an adult due to their poor judgment in their teens,” said State Sen. Laura Sturgeon, who sponsored the state law this spring. “Too often criminal records become an inescapable burden and a youthful mistake can set someone on a path from which they cannot escape. I think we all want one of these incidents to be a teachable moment, not a life sentence.”
So far this year, the Newark Police Department has made 178 arrests for underage drinking and given 252 civil violations for marijuana possession, spokesman Master Cpl. William Smith said.