Decriminalization is Not Legalization

By Graham Bond and Malachi Watson During the Nationalist Caucus on Monday evening, there were multiple questions over whether various candidates intended to legalize certain products and increase state budgets due to tax revenue, or to simply decriminalize them. All candidates shared a similar perspective on how these nonviolent crimes affect our population, but varied in the degree of severity they thought punishments should be. Attorney Liam Neidig offered the definitions of “decriminalize” and “legalize” the courts currently use. “Decriminalization still means you’re breaking the law,” Neidig said. “In Kansas City, Missouri, if [a product] was decriminalized, you could still get fined for it; it’s just no longer a felony. It’s what’s referred to as an infraction. Parking violations aren’t crimes, they’re infractions, so [decriminalization] makes [using it] like speeding. When you legalize something, it’s not illegal. For the legalization [like in] Colorado, you can use it in any capacity. While it is still a regulated substance like alcohol, it’s legal to buy, sell, and trade.” Federalist Senator Luke Stanford agreed, and presented a looser definition in which many legislators were following. “Decriminalization is loosening the criminal acts against someone and it loosens the punishments someone will face for that act, but legalization is abolish all of those punishments and promoting the business aspects, and I think that’s what we’re trying to pass here,” Stanford said. While these terms are well understood amongst legislatures now, there was much confusion when people were asked the difference between these terms last night. In addition, the idea of exoneration has been tied at times with these terms, but neither decriminalization nor legalization exonerates any criminals serving time for committing that illegal act. “[Criminals] would not [be released] unless legislation was passed exonerating them of their crimes because at the time society agreed it was a reprehensible act so they still have to serve their time,” Neidig said. “There have been pushes to shorten the sentences and parole of offenders, especially first time offenders of drug offenses, but once you legalize something, there’s no guarantee that any inmate serving time for breaking that law will get a reduced sentence.”  ]]>