We have finally reached a point in our society where lawmakers are beginning to recognize the benefits of cannabis. However, the decriminalization of cannabis is not the same as legalization.

It’s important to understand the differences to help prevent you from getting in trouble in the future.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about legalization vs decriminalization.


As the name implies, legalization means that people are free to use marijuana as they please. However, it’s important to denote that there are two separate forms of legalization when it comes to the substance:

  • Medical mariuana legalization
  • Recreational marijuana legalization

The former term refers to situations where marijuana is used as a form of medical treatment for certain conditions. Many of these include neurological issues, chronic pain, etc.

Recreational legalization dictates that people are allowed to use the product for their own pleasure.

Even after marijuana legalization has been declared, there are still certain regulations that need to be followed. For example, states that allow recreational marijuana use may have a limit on the amount of marijuana that a single individual can possess.

What Is Decriminalization?

Marijuana decriminalization is not the same as legalization. This is an important fact to recognize, as many people tend to confuse these terms.

Put simply, decriminalization means that people can no longer be prosecuted for certain acts.

To help put this into perspective, consider what happens if you get a traffic ticket. You don’t immediately go to jail — you simply need to pay the fine.

This is more or less how marijuana decriminalization works.

There are certain rules in effect that people must abide by. Otherwise, they are subject to a fine or some other civil penalty.

As you might guess, though, you can still experience harsh punishment for certain actions.

For example, let’s assume someone lives in a state that has recently decriminalized marijuana. If they possess large amounts of the substance and sell it to people they know, they can still get charged with drug trafficking.

Federal Law vs State Law

The conflict between these two types of law has caused difficulties for many people who are involved in the cannabis industry.

To elaborate, a business that operates a marijuana dispensary within a state with marijuana legalization cannot deduct business expenses on its taxes.

This is due to the fact that marijuana is still considered a controlled substance according to federal law. As you might guess, there are plenty of other complications that can arise.

You can check out this resource to learn more about 8 states that may legalize marijuana in the near future.

Understanding Legalization vs Decriminalization Is Essential

Otherwise, you could run into legal obstacles. The good news is that the above guide will help ensure that you fully understand legalization vs decriminalization and how it applies to your situation.

Want to learn more useful info that can help you out in the future? Be sure to check out the rest of our blog.