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

Toledo was the first city to decriminalize marijuana in 2015, followed by Newark, Logan, Bellaire, Roseville, Athens, Dayton, Norwood, Fremont, Oregon and Windham. Maia Anderson,, "New marijuana law takes effect in Cincinnati: What to know," 10 July 2019 In May, Denver became the first city in the nation to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. Hailey Branson-potts,, "How a trip on magic mushrooms helped decriminalize psychedelic plants in a California city," 22 June 2019 The measure passed by a narrow margin, making Denver the first city in the nation to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms. Nic Garcia, The Denver Post, "The Spot: The inside scoop on first gentleman Marlon Reis, reinsurance program moves forward, and who is the most electable in the 2020 Senate race?," 13 June 2019 Democratic lawmakers in New York have proposed a bill that would decriminalize prostitution. Christopher Brito, CBS News, "New York could become first state to fully decriminalize sex work," 11 June 2019 Last week, Brown signed a bill authored by Lara into law that decriminalizes sidewalk vending, a business popular with many immigrants. Fox News, "California governor vetoes bills to let noncitizens serve on boards, block immigration arrests in courthouses," 28 Sep. 2018 So far 18 states have decriminalized marijuana, the MPP says, and in all 34 states allow patients with health complaints to use medical marijuana. Ryan Prior, CNN, "Illinois is expunging marijuana convictions from nearly 800,000 criminal records," 27 June 2019 Many cities and counties throughout Florida have adopted similar measures that effectively decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, either by issuing tickets or fines, including Osceola County, Volusia County and Cocoa Beach. Monivette Cordeiro,, "Orange, Osceola prosecutors won’t pursue low-level drug offenses, State Attorney Aramis Ayala says," 27 June 2019 A couple dozen states have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, while at least five have reclassified drug possession from a felony to misdemeanor. Author: Justin Jouvenal, Anchorage Daily News, "No charges for personal drug possession: Seattle’s bold gamble to bring ‘peace’ after the war on drugs," 24 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

7 Aug 2019

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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 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

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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).


a period when something is suspended

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