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You’ve probably heard the terms “decriminalization” and “legalization” regarding weed laws, which can be confusing to differentiate. Sometimes, people use these terms interchangeably by mistake – but the rules they imply are not the same. As a canna-consumer, it’s essential to learn about marijuana decriminalization vs legalization to stay legally safe no matter where you go.

What does it mean when states decriminalize marijuana? How do decriminalized vs legal weed laws compare? Let’s discover the difference between decriminalization and legalization and explore what that means for weed laws around the world. 

What US states support the decriminalization vs legalization of weed? What about the countries that have decriminalized marijuana? Elevate Holistics has you covered. Let’s get educated.

Decriminalization vs Legalization

So what’s the difference between decriminalization and legalization? What does it mean when marijuana is decriminalized vs legal? 

Each US state has specific marijuana laws in favor of one or the other, both, or neither. The decriminalization of weed does not legalize it, and the legalization of weed doesn’t always mean it’s decriminalized. Are you ready to dive into the definitions?

What is Marijuana Decriminalization?

Decriminalizing marijuana does not mean that a state allows individuals to possess or consume weed without punishment. 

Instead, marijuana decriminalization means that people who possess a small amount of marijuana will be punished with a fine instead of jail time. Decriminalization keeps your record clean and removes the chance of prosecution, but is still a costly hassle. 

So if you possess a small amount of marijuana for personal consumption in a state that has decriminalized weed, you won’t be arrested. 

When weed is decriminalized vs legal, most states treat it like a minor traffic violation. But if you possess a considerable amount of weed or are presumably selling it, you could face serious penalties. 

The amount of weed classified as “simple possession for personal use” varies by state.

Is marijuana federally decriminalized? Federal law still does not allow marijuana to be sold or consumed, as it is illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. 

Within this act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has “no currently accepted medical use” and “a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.” 

Crazy, right? Luckily, many state marijuana laws conflict with federal law and have legalized the plant at least to some degree.

What is Marijuana Legalization?

Legalization allows a state government to regulate and tax marijuana sales and consumption. A state can decide to legalize the sale of marijuana for medical patients only (individuals who obtain an MMJ card) or for recreational (adult) use. 

Marijuana legalization means that you can possess or consume weed according to a state’s unique guidelines. 

These guidelines typically specify:

  • The age one must be to possess or consume marijuana
  • What medical conditions qualify an individual for a medical marijuana card
  • The amount of marijuana one can possess
  • The amount of cannabis products one can purchase at a time from dispensaries 
  • How many cannabis plants a resident can grow and own in their home (with a cultivator’s license)
  • Where individuals can consume weed (usually not in public)
  • When individuals cannot consume weed (while driving or if you will be under the influence while driving)

This means that as long as an individual is following a state’s specific weed laws while in that state, they will not face any criminal charges. 

However, law enforcement can still arrest you for engaging in any marijuana-related activity outside of a state’s guidelines. 

Brush up your knowledge of your state’s marijuana laws to avoid legality-induced paranoia.

US States With Marijuana Decriminalization Laws

Knowing the difference between decriminalization and legalization is great, but now you need to be aware of the states where simple marijuana possession will not result in criminal charges. 

So, what states have adopted marijuana decriminalization laws? 

States That Have Legalized Marijuana

Now let’s look at the states that have legalized marijuana. You’ll notice that some states that decided to decriminalize marijuana have also legalized it, while others have done one or the other. Many states, like Arkansas and Florida, offer medical marijuana but have not decriminalized the plant. Being mindful of decriminalized vs legal weed laws will keep you legally safe in your state or when traveling. 

Medical only states (not including states that have only legalized CBD oil)

  • Alabama 
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • West Virginia

Medical and recreational states

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington

Countries With Cannabis Decriminalization Laws

Recreational cannabis is illegal in many countries, but most have adopted decriminalization laws. Whether it’s decriminalization vs legalization, it’s valuable to know what countries will not prosecute you for simple marijuana possession. 

So, what countries support cannabis decriminalization? 

This list does not include countries that offer medical marijuana.

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Australia 
  • Austria
  • Barbados
  • Belgium
  • Belize
  • Bermuda
  • Bolivia
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Dominica
  • Ecuador
  • Estonia
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Netherlands
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Portugal
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Slovenia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Uruguay

In Canada, cannabis is fully legal and can be purchased practically anywhere. In some countries like Finland and Egypt, cannabis is illegal but the laws are often unenforced. 

On the other hand, in some Asian and Middle Eastern countries, simple possession of cannabis could result in several years of imprisonment. 

To decriminalize marijuana as a country would put a stop to countless cannabis injustices across the globe.

Is medical marijuana legal where you reside? Has the decriminalization vs legalization of weed impacted you and your state? 

Now that we’ve learned the difference between decriminalization and legalization, it’s time to get your medical marijuana card for maximum legal protection.

Elevate Holistics offers a quick, simple, and 100% online way to get your MMJ card. We virtually and securely connect you with a doctor for med card approval and help you throughout the process.

Not only do patients have greater legal protection with an MMJ card, but they are prioritized and offered better discounts at dispensaries. 

You deserve it – book an appointment with Elevate Holistics to get your medical marijuana card today.

Get Your MMJ Card Right From Home

Elevate Holistics’ process is quick, affordable, and done entirely online. It’s never been so easy.

About the author

Ally Hilbert is the Content and SEO Manager here at Elevate Holistics, working to publish and run Elevate’s blogs and landing pages, as well as conduct keyword research, competitor analysis, and more. After having brain surgery at the age of 17, Ally became fascinated with medical cannabis and its benefits, and, at 18, had her first CBD-related piece published. Today, she’s been writing about cannabis for the past six years, and simply can’t think of a better company to get to do it for. When she’s not writing or editing, Ally’s side-by-side with her pup Sadie in Seattle.
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