To decrease the penalties associated with a crime. The act of decriminalization generally reduces the classification of marijuana possession from a felony or misdemeanor to a civil infraction. Thus, decriminalization of non-medical cannabis removes the threat of arrest for possessing small amounts of marijuana. 

Washington, D.C., decriminalized marijuana and reduced the public smoking penalty to a $25 fine.

Cannabis is decriminalized in many municipalities across the United States.

marijuana criminalization Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

What does decriminalization mean?

Decriminalizing drug use, specifically cannabis use, means that possessing and using small amounts of recreational marijuana will not result in a felony charge and/or potential jail time. Rather, marijuana possession may be a civil infraction usually punishable by a monetary fine. 

What is the difference between decriminalization and legalization?

The difference between decriminalization vs. legalization has to do with the legal classifications and penalties associated with each. When cannabis is legalized in a municipality, there are no legal consequences that can arise from possessing or smoking a designated amount of weed in accordance with the law. But when marijuana has been decriminalized, violators may be liable for a fine if they are found to be in possession of cannabis. 

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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on June 9, 2021.