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 Sudan will also decriminalize apostasy and ban FGM, a practice that typically involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia of girls and women. Washington Post, "World Digest: July 12, 2020," 12 July 2020 Even Kevin Sabet, co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes full-scale cannabis legalization, told CNN Business the organization is supportive of recent efforts to decriminalize minor possession of cannabis. Alicia Wallace, CNN, "Why more states could legalize cannabis in 2021," 24 June 2020 The government may choose to decriminalize not paying the license fee as soon as 2022. Hadas Gold, CNN, "BBC promotes marketing exec to top job as it braces for uncertain future," 5 June 2020 On Friday, reports emerged that the Scottish Parliament had introduced a bill decriminalizing blasphemy. Madeleine Kearns, National Review, "Scotland Swaps One Blasphemy Law for Another," 29 Apr. 2020 The Utah Senate unanimously passed a bill that effectively decriminalizes polygamy between consenting adults. Ella Torres, ABC News, "Utah senators unanimously pass bill to decriminalize polygamy," 19 Feb. 2020 In November, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. Audrey Mcnamara, CBS News, "These states now have legal weed, and which states could follow suit in 2020," 1 Jan. 2020 Vendors and activists fear the coronavirus shutdown — a setback nobody saw coming — will undo the gains of a decade-long movement to decriminalize street vending in the city. Los Angeles Times, "L.A. street vendors fought 10 years for the right to sell. Then COVID-19 came along," 24 Apr. 2020 Ann Arbor has been an appropriate place for the gathering since the city council decriminalized pot in 1974. Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press, "Hash Bash in Ann Arbor will be virtual this year because of coronavirus: How to watch," 2 Apr. 2020

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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Time Traveler for decriminalize

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The first known use of decriminalize was in 1969

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Statistics for decriminalize

Last Updated

27 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Decriminalize.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for decriminalize


How to pronounce decriminalize (audio)

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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