de·​crim·​i·​nal·​ize | \ (ˌ)dē-ˈkri-mə-nə-ˌlīz How to pronounce decriminalize (audio) , -ˈkrim-nəl-\
decriminalized; decriminalizing; decriminalizes

Definition of decriminalize

transitive verb

: to remove or reduce the criminal classification or status of especially : to repeal a strict ban on while keeping under some form of regulation decriminalize the possession of marijuana

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Other Words from decriminalize

decriminalization \ (ˌ)dē-​ˌkri-​mə-​nə-​lə-​ˈzā-​shən How to pronounce decriminalization (audio) , -​ˌkrim-​nəl-​ \ noun

Examples of decriminalize in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Three months after Denver voters decriminalized psychedelic mushrooms, there are no signs yet of broader public health effects — but therapists are here to deal with traumatic trips. Jessica Seaman, The Denver Post, "Checkup Denver: Planned Parenthood leaves federal Title X program, mystery vaping-related illness and more Colorado health news," 26 Aug. 2019 The District of Columbia and 11 states have legalized marijuana for recreational use; 33 states plus the District have legalized, or decriminalized, the use of marijuana for either medical or recreational purposes. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "The DEA Will Finally Help Expand Marijuana Research: Brainstorm Health," 26 Aug. 2019 At the same, the council could possibly decriminalize possession. Frederick Melo, Twin Cities, "Thao clarifies proposed restrictions on tobacco, alcohol retailers," 23 Aug. 2019 The state decriminalized marijuana possession of up to 10 grams in 2014. Mckenna Oxenden,, "Most Americans don’t think it’s a problem to drive high. Here’s why it is.," 31 July 2019 Cannabis reform: Harris’ latest policy plan would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and rethink how the federal government views cannabis, helping people with past convictions getting into the industry. Casey Tolan, The Mercury News, "California 2020 Countdown: Trump tax returns debate, Buttigieg and Inslee hit Bay Area," 25 July 2019 The voting age will be sixteen, opioids will be decriminalized, and every cop will wear a camera. Emily Witt, The New Yorker, "How Andrew Yang’s Robot Apocalypse Can Heal a Divided Nation," 18 July 2019 Other jurisdictions, including Milwaukee, Appleton, Racine, Green Bay and Eau Claire, also have decriminalized, according to the group NORML, which favors legalization. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "In Wisconsin, you're more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession if you're black. Legalization may not change that.," 18 July 2019 The state decriminalized marijuana possession of up to 10 grams in 2014. Mckenna Oxenden,, "Most Americans don't think it's a problem to drive high. Here's why it is.," 26 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'decriminalize.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of decriminalize

1969, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for decriminalize

Last Updated

4 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for decriminalize

The first known use of decriminalize was in 1969

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More Definitions for decriminalize



English Language Learners Definition of decriminalize

: to make (something that is illegal) legal by changing the law


transitive verb
de·​crim·​i·​nal·​ize | \ dē-ˈkri-mən-ᵊl-ˌīz How to pronounce decriminalize (audio) \
decriminalized; decriminalizing

Legal Definition of decriminalize

: to remove or reduce the criminal classification or status of

Other Words from decriminalize

decriminalization \ dē-​ˌkri-​mən-​ᵊl-​ə-​ˈzā-​shən How to pronounce decriminalization (audio) \ noun

More from Merriam-Webster on decriminalize

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with decriminalize

Nglish: Translation of decriminalize for Spanish Speakers

Comments on decriminalize

What made you want to look up decriminalize? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


readily or continually undergoing change

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