Decriminalization v Legalization – What are the Differences?

decriminalizationDecriminalization v legalization

Decriminalization? What the hell is that. And how is the decriminalization of marijuana any different from legalization? Sure we’re talking semantics here but knowing the distinction could help keep you from getting busted—especially on a road trip—since weed’s highly illegal in some states, merely tolerated in some others and completely celebrated in a few more. But where?

Don’t worry, dude. Not only are we going to list all the states with legalized weed we’re gonna hook you up with a dope decriminalization definition straight from the COO of a Marijuana Law Firm. Now you can legally have your cannabis and smoke it too.

Decriminalization definition

Let’s start with a decriminalization definition. What exactly does decriminalization mean? For that we turn to an expert, Ohio’s Abe Cohn COO of the THC Legal Group—a team of Marijuana Lawyers specializing in legal protection for the cannabis industry.



“Marijuana decriminalization means (generally, although certainly State specific) that first time offenders without a criminal record who are caught with a minimal amount of weed will not be incarcerated or charged for committing any serious crime,” he says.

Decriminalizing weed removes the criminality of getting caught with it. In certain areas the consequence of possession can be similar to a parking ticket—annoying but tolerable. Think of decriminalization as the first step on the path to legalizing marijuana. At least that’s how it happened here in California. Many other states including Oregon and Colorado also began with the decriminalization of cannabis prior to legalization.

what states is weed legal inWhere is marijuana legal in US of A?

Ever wondered what states is marijuana legal in? Also how to get there, get high and get back? Us too. So seeking good news we asked our legal expert—in what states is weed legal? His response? None of them—from a Federal perspective.

“Under federal law, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substance Act,” says Cohn. “This designation indicates the DEA’s belief that marijuana is of zero medicinal value while lending itself to a high likelihood of abuse.”

That sort of puts a damper on a summer-long stoner road trip, right? Nah, man. Weed is perfectly legal in some states it’s just important to know which ones.

In what states is marijuana legal?

Many states have called bullshit on prohibition and have chosen to legalize marijuana within their own jurisdictions. However it’s still important to remember that 28 legal marajuana states exists. And that still doesn’t invalidate or overturn marijuana’s federal illegality.

“At least in principal, federal authorities could use their enforcement powers and shut down otherwise state-legal marijuana operations and businesses. The idea that the federal law trumps (pun fully intended) state law is firmly grounded in the constitution and encompassed by Supremacy Clause,” says Cohn.

No really. What states is weed legal in?

Let’s get back to planning that stoner road trip and focus on how many states legalize weed already and which ones they are. Currently there are 28 states that have legalized marijuana in one shape or form. That’s more than half of the nation. Take a look:
what states is weed legal

States with legalized weed 101

So how have the states with legalized weed actually made that happen? Well, in a very fundamental way, the state’s have exercised their legislative powers. That has allowed their citizens to vote on its legal status,” says Cohn. “States with legalized weed operate under one of two legal regimes. Either the state has adopted a full recreational program whereby marijuana is legal for everyone (as a general matter, similar to alcohol). Or a medicinal marijuana program whereby marijuana is legal only for qualified individuals with doctor-sanctioned permits.”

But remember, just because marijuana is legal in a given state, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a tourist in visiting that State is allowed to purchase and consume it. Each state has its own set of rules and regulations governing this question so read up beforehand.

Thanks to the decriminalization and legalization of weed cannabis connoisseurs have more access to marijuana now than ever before. So now that we know exactly where to score some legal weed and smoke it only one question remains—who’s driving?

Ever been busted for weed on a road trip or have any questions about the decriminalization of weed v legalization? Holla in the comment section below?



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