Monday, July 10, 2023
What Does Cannabis Decriminalization Mean?
Decriminalization refers to the loosening of criminal penalties associated with personal marijuana use, though the production and sale of cannabis remain unlawful. In essence, decriminalization instructs law enforcement to overlook possession of small amounts of marijuana intended for personal use.
Under this arrangement, those found in possession of marijuana face civil penalties instead of criminal charges. However, the production and sale of marijuana continue to be unregulated by the state.
"Decriminalizing cannabis does not mean that the plant is legal. Instead, it means that possessing or consuming small amounts of marijuana will not legally be treated as a serious crime. There may not be any penalty at all for possessing very small amounts."
Decriminalization Across the States
Several states have fully decriminalized personal marijuana use, including:
There are also states that have partially decriminalized certain marijuana offenses:
What is Cannabis Legalization?
Contrasting decriminalization, legalization entails abolishing laws that ban the possession and personal use of marijuana. More importantly, legalization allows the government to regulate and tax marijuana use and sales, creating a stream of revenue.
With cannabis legalization, personal use and possession of the plant become permissible, and the plant can be bought from legitimately licensed dispensaries. This eliminates the risk of lower product quality and criminal consequences associated with purchasing cannabis from the black market.
Legalization Across the States
Recreational marijuana is presently legal in several states, including:
The Pros and Cons of Decriminalization and Legalization
There are valid arguments on both sides of the decriminalization and legalization debate.
Pros of Decriminalization
Advocates of decriminalization argue that it is counterproductive to grant the federal government the authority to legalize the use of marijuana while attempting to regulate it simultaneously.
Furthermore, decriminalization can alleviate the burden on the judicial system, saving millions in taxpayer dollars by not prosecuting offenders caught with small amounts of marijuana.
Cons of Decriminalization
Despite the merits, some opponents of legalization argue that marijuana is a gateway drug leading users to other, more serious and addictive substances.
Additionally, as production and sale of marijuana remain unregulated under decriminalization, only criminals profit from a product that remains illegal.
Pros of Legalization
Supporters of legalization argue that it removes the industry from the hands of criminals and provides a steady stream of new revenue for states through taxes.
Legalization advocates also argue that regulation of marijuana sales makes it safer for consumers.
Cons of Legalization
Detractors, however, caution against the potential public health risks associated with increased accessibility and use of marijuana. They express concern over the potential for increased traffic accidents, mental health issues, and use among minors.
The Bottom Line
The legal status of cannabis is constantly evolving in the United States. Some state laws have provided for the full legalization of marijuana, while others have merely decriminalized the plant. Stay informed of drug legalization and drug decriminalization laws in your home state before purchasing marijuana.