Decriminalization vs. Legalization: What's the Difference?

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Key Difference

The difference between legalization and decriminalization is that legalization means that a law or a product that was previously not allowed or prohibited is no more restricted. On the other hand, decriminalization means that there would be no certain charge on a certain act but still would be considered as an illegal act.

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Decriminalization vs. Legalization

Legalization and decriminalization are the terms used in law language usually. Due to ongoing marijuana conflicts regarding allowing it or not to the public both the terms are widely used nowadays. Basically, the term legalization is used when a law is made for some act or product that the particular act or product is not allowed before and is no more restricted. It becomes legal from illegal but under certain conditions usually. Similarly, when it comes to decriminalization the term is used in a situation when the punishment or charge is removed from an act which is still considered to be illegal and in such case the person would have to face penalty or fine. So besides being illegal act or utilization of the specified product is free from the lawful procedure. Both the terms are thus associated with the law.

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Comparison Chart

BasisLegalizationDecriminalization
DefinitionLegalization means that a law or a product that was previously not allowed or prohibited is no more restricted.Decriminalization means that there would be no certain charge on a certain act but still would be considered as an illegal act.
LegitimacyThe act or product is legal.The product or act is still illegal.
PenaltyThere is no penalty.There could be penalty or fine.
ChargeNo chargeNo charge

What is legalization?

The term legalization is used when a law is made for some act or product that the particular act or product is not allowed before and is no more restricted. It becomes legal from illegal but under certain conditions usually. There is no charge or penalty over it. For example, in case of marijuana, it is no more illegal and hence if a person is found using it he will not be charged or fined or even be reprimanded by authorities for doing this. The things might not be accepted by the society and considered as an unethical thing or act and being individually punished by the society is something different. For instance, a father sees his son using marijuana or smoking cigarette, he might punish him but the son would be free from any sort of judicial procedure. The most controversial legalization is marijuana and prostitution, though the act is extremely intolerable for the society.

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What is Decriminalization?

Decriminalization means that there would be no certain charge on a certain act but still would be considered as an illegal act. The term is used in a situation when the punishment or charge is removed from an act which is still considered to be illegal and in such case the person would have to face penalty or fine. So besides being illegal act or utilization of the specified product is free from the lawful procedure. For example, alcohol being decriminalized in our country is being sold and purchased but a license is required for the selling and purchasing purpose of the alcohol. If a person is found dealing with it without a license it would be considered illegal and in addition to it he or she may not follow any charges but at the same time, he would be fined. Other examples of acts or products being decriminalized are abortion, marijuana, prostitution, public nudity, steroid use in sports, euthanasia, and gambling etc.

Key differences

  1. Legalization means that a law or a product that was previously not allowed or prohibited is no more restricted. On the other hand, decriminalization means that there would be no certain charge on a certain act but still would be considered as an illegal act.
  2. After legalization, the act is considered to be legal but after decriminalization, the act or product is still illegal.
  3. After legalization, the act or product is not charged or fined but after decriminalization of any product or act the use or the act would not be charged but still fined.

Conclusion

The terms legalization and decriminalization are linked in such a way that legalization means that and act prohibited before is now allowed and there will be no charge or fine over the act or the product that was legalized. Whereas, a product or act being decriminalized means that using the product or the particular act is free of charge but still considered to be illegal and one would be fined over the act or product.

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