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

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
decriminalization noun

Examples of decriminalize in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The no-vending zones were established by a 2018 ordinance that decriminalized street vending elsewhere in the city and created rules and regulations for vendors. Caroline Petrow-Cohen, Los Angeles Times, 6 Feb. 2024 On Friday, Germany passed a measure decriminalizing possession and home cultivation of cannabis, starting on April 1. Steve Mollman, Fortune, 22 Mar. 2024 Oregon, Colorado and more than a dozen U.S. cities have decriminalized psychedelic mushrooms. Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, 5 Mar. 2024 Then Colombia decriminalized the procedure in 2022, permitting abortions up to 24 weeks. Terrence McCoy, Washington Post, 23 Feb. 2024 Idaho is one of just four states yet to even decriminalize marijuana, along with Wyoming, Kansas and South Carolina. Shaun Goodwin, Idaho Statesman, 22 Feb. 2024 When California decriminalized sidewalk vending with SB 946 in 2018, that led to a significant increase in vendors throughout the city, according to a staff report. Michael Slaten, Orange County Register, 12 Feb. 2024 The opposition counters that decriminalizing weed will be harmful to young people and increase the burden on police. Cecilia Rodriguez, Forbes, 21 Feb. 2024 Oregon voters passed Measure 110 in 2020, which decriminalized some use of hard-drugs, including fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid. Amy Simonson and Lauren Mascarenhas, CNN, 31 Jan. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'decriminalize.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1969, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of decriminalize was in 1969

Dictionary Entries Near decriminalize

Cite this Entry

“Decriminalize.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Legal Definition


transitive verb
de·​crim·​i·​nal·​ize dē-ˈkri-mən-ᵊl-ˌīz How to pronounce decriminalize (audio)
decriminalized; decriminalizing
: to remove or reduce the criminal classification or status of
decriminalization noun

More from Merriam-Webster on decriminalize

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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