de·​crim·​i·​nal·​ize | \(ˌ)dē-ˈkri-mə-nə-ˌlīz, -ˈkrim-nəl-\

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, -​ˌkrim-​nəl-​ \ noun

Examples of decriminalize in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drugs and dramatically ramped up treatment with, among other interventions, special commissions that direct problem drug users to treatment. German Lopez, Vox, "How Ohio voters could upend the state’s war on drugs this November," 12 Oct. 2018 Marijuana has been decriminalized, yet marijuana possession and summonses still persist, and minority communities are being hit nine out of 10 times, even though usage is split almost down the middle between white and black and Latino communities. Julia Felsenthal, Vogue, "Crime + Punishment," 22 Aug. 2018 In 2016 Alabama has passed a bill that decriminalized cannabidiol and allows patients with seizure disorders and other debilitating conditions access to cannabis oil without fear of prosecution. Carol Robinson,, "Operation Gummy Bear: State raid turns up haul of drug-laced candy," 23 Mar. 2018 Abrams, meanwhile, has collected close to a dozen awards over the years for her progressive work, and has worked quietly since 2007 to decriminalize marijuana, stop tax increases, and tighten gun restrictions. Jenny Hollander, Marie Claire, "Stacey Abrams on Why Survivors Don't Report—And Why We Must Believe Them Anyway," 25 Sep. 2018 Draft recommendations, released earlier this month, call for providing on-demand behavioral-health treatment, decriminalizing homelessness and creating new job-training programs. Vernal Coleman, The Seattle Times, "In King County’s fragmented homelessness system, calls for a change," 23 Apr. 2018 However, many nations have decriminalized marijuana use. Arizona Republic, azcentral, "News stories you may have missed during family separations uproar," 22 June 2018 The dominance of the Catholic Church over state institutions was beginning to fall away, homosexuality was decriminalized, divorce became legal, and contraception was made widely available for the first time. Jamie Hawkesworth, Vogue, "Saoirse Ronan on Growing Up on Camera, the Changing Politics of Ireland, and Becoming a Queen," 11 July 2018 Lopez Obrador has also opened the door to legalization of drugs - until now, Mexico has decriminalized personal possession of small amounts of marijuana — and does not appear interested in ratcheting up confrontations with the cartels. Joshua Partlow And David Agren,, "Mexico's presidential front-runner doesn't want to escalate the drug war," 30 June 2018

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

11 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for decriminalize

The first known use of decriminalize was in 1969

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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 \
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 \ noun

More from Merriam-Webster on decriminalize

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with decriminalize

Nglish: Translation of decriminalize for Spanish Speakers

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