What crosses your mind when you hear the word “cannabis?” Many Americans think of an evil, criminal and illegal substance. Moreover, millions of Americans cannot fathom fully how we can have cannabis operating without a criminal hash tag. In this article, I will discuss how many people are now using cannabis without the negative stigma that the plant had for so many years. We will also learn about two ways through which cannabis can benefit people by legalization or decriminalization. But what is the difference between legalized and decriminalized cannabis use? What are the implications of decriminalizing and legalizing cannabis? Some of the answers may surprise you.


To legalize means that your interaction with or use of cannabis is no longer unlawful. This means that you will not face arrest, prosecution, or criminal charges if you use or possess cannabis.  However, is it necessary to understand that legalization does not give you the power to do anything you like or want to do with the plant. Instead, it allows you to do what the law says you should do with it. In short, it allows the state to regulate and monitor your activities. Some of the restrictions you will need to abide by are:

  • Who can or should produce cannabis and its related products at different stages of production and value addition
  • Who will consume cannabis. This means that legalization will impose age limits the same way it does on other substances such as alcohol
  • Who should distribute or sell cannabis
  • Where you will use cannabis
  • The circumstances under which you are permitted to use it


So, what does it mean to decriminalize cannabis? It simply means that possessing and using the plant is still illegal. However, the difference here is that its enforcement and penalties are less severe. Consequently, the police could overlook some activities but if they find you breaking the law, you stand to face fines or civil proceedings. However, under these circumstances you will not face a jail term or have a criminal record.

What do the above mean should your state decriminalize cannabis? Ideally, your local and state governments will permit you to possess small amounts of cannabis. They will also allow you to use cannabis privately. Under a decriminalized arrangement, you will not be allowed to engage in mass production, sale or transportation of cannabis. But unlike legalization, your state government cannot do regulate it. This means they cannot tax the plant or control its production.

With limited control stemming from decriminalization, it remains difficult for the government to deal with potential abuses. This means it is easy for drug cartels to monopolize the market, thereby continuing some of the negative aspects associated with the plant.

The Ramifications of Legalization and Decriminalization

In this section of our discussion, we focus on the effects of legalizing and decriminalizing cannabis. Here are some of them:

  • The state will regulate the quality and potency of the plant and its produce
  • The state will limit the retailing of cannabis to licensed distributors
  • Even though the government will allow a certain level of production to non-retailers and home users, it will limit its commercial production to licensed producers only
  • The state will also impose limitations on how cannabis can be advertised, including the type of advertising and where it should appear
  • Regulation will also give states and counties the right to revoke licenses of retailers should they find out that they are contravening the established laws
  • States will also have the power to limit when people are allowed to purchase and use cannabis

 Closing Remarks

Legalization and decriminalization of cannabis are two terms many people do not understand well. Moreover, legalization and decriminalization have many implications that restrict various activities related to the production, distribution, and consumption of cannabis. The aim of this article was to clarify these two legal realities and show you how they impact America’s cannabis industry. I hope you can now see the facts related to these two legal terms and realities more clearly.