Skip to main content
Drug Charges

Difference Between Legalization and Decriminalization of Pot

By May 18, 2016April 26th, 2024No Comments

If you’ve ever been to a Dave Matthews concert, Earth Day rally, or any large public gather, you might have seen people from NORML walking around with clipboards asking for signatures. These people are working to either decriminalize or legalize marijuana.

This has become a bit of hot topic lately, especially after Colorado collected $70 million in pot tax revenue last year. The terms “decriminalization” and “legalization” are sometimes used interchangeably, which is incorrect.

To set the record straight, here’s the difference.



Decriminalization- When a state decriminalizes pot it means possessing small amounts of pot is now a non-criminal offense. So instead of getting arrested and a criminal record, you’ll probably get a ticket that you have to pay in court. Think of it like a traffic (not to be confused with trafficking) ticket.  

“Small amounts” means different things in different states, depending on what the laws the state passed.


Legalization- If pot has been legalized then it can be bought, sold, and used without any tickets or arrests. All states that have legalized pot set limits and regulations for buyers and sellers of pot. It’s treated fairly similar to alcohol in these states.

Currently four states (plus DC) have legalized marijuana and 20 states have decriminalized weed. Oklahoma has done neither. In fact, Oklahoma has some of the harshest penalties for drug related charges and weed is no exception.


If you’ve been charged with any kind of drug crime in Oklahoma, you need to get a lawyer as soon as possible. Jacqui Ford is one of the most aggressive drug attorneys in the state and she will fight for you.