What Is the Difference Between Legalization and Decriminalization of Marijuana?


Decriminalization and legalization are two terms related to marijuana use, but they mean very different things.

Decriminalization means that the law no longer criminalizes certain behaviors related to marijuana use, whereas legalization means the state has created a regulatory framework for commercial sales of marijuana.

While this article will address both decriminalization and legalization in detail, here's what you need to know:

It's legal

Decriminalization is a process where the government removes criminal penalties for certain activities related to drug use.

This does not imply that you can do whatever you want with your drugs, though—you may still be subject to fines and other civil penalties.

Medical marijuana is when legal access is granted for therapeutic purposes only; recreational users cannot access the substance legally unless they have a prescription from a doctor.

In some states, medical marijuana cards are available only to patients diagnosed with specific conditions or diseases (such as cancer).

Recipients must then apply for authorization through their state's Marijuana Enforcement Division or Department of Health Services before filling prescriptions at dispensaries throughout their state.

Recreational cannabis refers to any marijuana not intended for medicinal use; it includes both controlled substances that are legal under state laws but illegal at federal levels (such as Colorado) as well as those whose possession would result in arrest even though they're legal under local laws (like California).

Legality doesn't mean anyone can get marijuana

You still need a medical marijuana card.?

You can't get it from a dispensary or grow it at home.

You can't buy it from a friend or dealer.

Law enforcement won't go after someone for possession alone

The main difference between decriminalization and legalization is that possession of marijuana is still illegal under decriminalization laws.

If you're caught with weed, you can still be arrested and face fines or jail time.

Decriminalization doesn't mean that the police won't arrest someone for a possession; it only limits the penalties a person faces upon arrest.

So while they may not get thrown in jail for possessing an ounce or less, they could still face steep fines or community service hours on top of criminal charges.

Because these punishments are so minor compared to what someone might get for selling weed illegally, usually ranging from probation and community service to years in prison- many believe this makes cannabis laws unfair because those who sell marijuana can face much harsher penalties than those who consume it recreationally.

The legal framework for dispensaries is more complicated for marijuana users.

Buying marijuana is more complicated for users as well. A medical card from a doctor is required, and you must be at least 18 years old to buy it.

You also have to have a valid ID, be a resident of the state where you are buying the marijuana, and not have any criminal history that would prevent you from buying it legally.

Finally, there is one final restriction on purchasing marijuana. In most states where recreational use has been legalized, buyers can only buy 1 ounce at a time (though some states allow more).

It's illegal

While you may use marijuana without fear of arrest, this does not mean it is legal. It is illegal to own or use marijuana unless you have a medical reason for doing so.

Suppose you're caught with marijuana without authorization from a doctor or another official source. In that case, you can face arrest and other penalties like fines and community service work.

In some states where recreational use has been legalized (such as Colorado), the state government has created a law enforcement agency that enforces regulations related to the recreational use of marijuana.

This means some officers look out for people using or selling recreational cannabis illegally or without proper authorization from the state health department. Charges change from criminal violations to civil infractions.

Decriminalization laws have been in effect in several states since the 1970s, but they differ from legalization.

In a decriminalized state, you won't go to jail for possessing marijuana, but charges change from a criminal violation to a civil infraction.

Civil infractions are less serious than criminal charges and typically punishable by fines or community service. They're not considered convictions and don't result in a criminal record.

Law enforcement will no longer prioritize these offenses.

Decriminalization is a process of changing the law. It requires the cooperation of law enforcement officials to be effective, who will no longer prioritize these offenses.

Decriminalization does not change the law; rather, it directs police and prosecutors to stop arresting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

Law enforcement still has every right to arrest people for possession and can arrest people for selling marijuana.


We hope this article has clarified the distinction between marijuana decriminalization and marijuana legalization.

We also want to remind you that if you are caught with marijuana, it's important that you get a good attorney who can defend you against these charges.

The attorneys at our firm have years of experience fighting drug possession charges and can help protect your future from serious consequences like jail time or deportation.


Blog by Weed Stop
  • Categories: Legalization