The Difference between Legalization and Decriminalization

by sammoser on March 7, 2013

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Several substances and activities have become the focus of a decriminalization or legalization debate over the decades. They have included alcohol, marijuana, and prostitution. The arguments rage on, with both sides passionately holding their ground. The people behind these debates have very strong feelings about their topic.

Legalization of Marijuana

Today, one of the hot topics in North America is whether or not to decriminalize the use of marijuana or to even legalize its use. Opponents and proponents argue vehemently about the virtues and benefits of their respective sides.

Opponents to Legalization of or Decriminalizing Marijuana Argue that:

  • Marijuana is dangerous in its own right
  • The marijuana growing and distribution industry promotes and funds organized crime and the violence that goes with it
  • Marijuana use frequently leads to the use of stronger drugs
  • Many drug addicts began by using marijuana
  • Many DUI offenders are high on marijuana when arrested

Proponents of Marijuana Legalization

  • Marijuana does not lead to addiction
  • Marijuana is a recreational drug no worse than cigarettes or alcohol
  • Making it an offense to buy, grow, or sell marijuana promotes organized crime
  • Marijuana is a legitimate pain killer used by many people as an analgesic
  • Marijuana in this capacity is less powerful than prescription opiates

Legalization vs. Decriminalization

The question in situations like this has often been whether to decriminalize an offense, such as possessing marijuana, or to legalize it. To decriminalize an act usually means to reduce the severity of the offense so that, instead of prison, an offender will pay a fine.

According to the legal system, however, decriminalization often amounts to prioritizing. Law enforcement authorities have other things to worry about besides people smoking dope. Also, police and judges might decide that it is the degree to which someone commits a crime (i.e. how often and how much she charges for a prostitute, how much marijuana a person possesses, etc.) which inform their decisions to arrest and punish someone.

Legalization means making something completely legal. The issue would no longer be deciding if an act or product was legal to buy or sell. Now there would be a distinction between how much (of a drug) or how often (prostituting) would be considered acceptable.

Differences of Opinion

There are usually differences between the regulations enforced in separate towns and states. Even if a city has decided to legalize the use of marijuana, for instance, other cities along the highway can choose not to. They could set their limits higher or lower. They might decide that certain behaviors are alright in particular contexts, and that licensing is essential for someone to behave within the law.

Even a liquor store must hold a license. The manager could be fined without one or for selling alcohol to under-aged drinkers, so there are always laws around the use, distribution, and sale of a legalized product. Moreover, drunk-driving laws strictly regulate how much blood can be in a driver’s system when he is behind the wheel of his car. The same rules would apply to the legalization of marijuana sale, production, and purchase. There would be no similar regulations emerging for the use of non-medical narcotics, club drugs, or meth.

If indeed one day the use, sale, possession and growth of marijuana is decriminalized or legalized, you can expect the demand for marijuana related products such as the Extreme Q vaporizer to increase.

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