Decriminalization vs Legalization
Decriminalization and legalization are heavy words that have significance for many groups and people feeling bad about something being regulated or treated as illegal. There are many who feel that the two words are synonymous and can be used interchangeably. However, there are subtle differences between decriminalization and legalization that have to be understood before raising voices against either of the two. Let us take a closer look.
What is Decriminalization?
If a substance is prohibited and dealing in the substance is treated as a crime, decriminalization is a process that turns the condition somewhat and makes dealing in the substance from illegal to not illegal. The point to remember is that it does not become legal to deal the substance and the law enforcing authorities still continue to make arrests as the substance is still being regulated by the government. For convenience, one can fit in Marijuana, in place of substance in the above description. Speeding is not a punishable offense but you can still be fined if found driving past a speed limit. You are not treated as a criminal but can feel harassed because of the regulations.
In the case of marijuana, decriminalization can be a good option as the government can still regulate the use and trade of the banned substance. At the same time, keeping or selling small amounts of marijuana will not be treated as criminal activities as the status of such activities would change from illegal, to not illegal if not legal. Decriminalization removes the tag of criminal from a person involved with a substance or activity that was considered criminal earlier. Decriminalization means no more criminal charges on people though the rules and regulations remain intact.
What is Legalization?
The act whereby a substance or an activity that is hitherto illegal and prohibited by law is turned legal is called legalization. So, if prostitution is illegal and one day government suddenly declares it as legal, legalization of prostitution is said to have taken place. The consumption and sale of alcohol was banned in some states of India and anyone found involved with the sale and consumption of alcohol is treated as a criminal and dealt with accordingly. When prohibition is removed, and alcohol becomes legal, people who were treated as criminals need not worry as they can breathe easy.
What is the difference between Decriminalization and Legalization?
• Legalization is a process that makes a substance or activity perfectly legal and one can indulge in the activity without any fears.
• On the other hand, if prostitution is decriminalized, it means that prostitutes will no longer be considered criminals and will not be arrested though all rules and regulations on the activities of prostitutes continue unabated.
• Decriminalization of marijuana and legalization of marijuana are thus two very different conditions though there are more proponents of decriminalization as they feel that though people keeping marijuana will no longer be treated as criminals, government can still keep an eye on the use and trade of the banned substance.
• Decriminalization is a position that still punishes culprits though by means other than prison.
• Decriminalization removes all criminal laws while legalization turns a hitherto illegal activity into something perfectly legal.