I’m sure you’ve heard both terms at some point or another on just this site alone – but do you truly know the difference between decriminalization and legalization? Often these two things are spoken of as if they are the same and offer all the same benefits – but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
When it comes down to it, decriminalization differs from legalization in the fact that the “offense” is still considered an offense. In cities, counties and countries who have decriminalized the use of marijuana it is still illegal to possess, consume or sell marijuana – but it is no longer going to mean leaving you with a criminal record or jail time.
Instead, decriminalizing marijuana results in a civil infraction for those caught with cannabis – in some places that could be as little as $50 or as much as $500. However, a fine is definitely preferable to jail time when it comes down to it!
Now, take a look at legalization – which is the next big step past decriminalization. Legalizing takes things into a new perspective. At this point, it is no longer a criminal or civil infraction to possess, consume or sell marijuana as long as you are acting within your state’s (or country’s) specific legislation.
With legalization, things like a black market will eventually come to an end. People would rather go buy their bud from a dispensary legally than risk jail time over an illegal transaction. Sure some won’t at first – but the fact of the matter is, it is still illegal to sell without licenses and that will eventually ruin the black market (or those suppliers may turn to legal avenues).
Going back to decriminalization for a second – while you no longer face jail or a criminal record there is still no place to purchase your bud or smoke it legally – meaning you’re still risking being fined as often as you risked jail time. Plus, in this situation the black markets continue to thrive.
So which is truly the better option? In my opinion it’s legalization – simply because it’s so much safer to have a storefront to visit rather than a guy on a street corner. I think decriminalization is a great starting point for any city, county, state or country – but I don’t think we can call it mission accomplished until it has been legalized.
While some may argue that they would prefer not to have things regulated (for example driving while stoned, smoking in public, taxes on your bud, etc.) in the end I believe this makes a safer alternative for all parties involved.