The difference between cannabis legalization and decriminalization

    As national governments around the world begin coming to terms with the fact that cannabis prohibition is not only a bad idea, but an impossible goal to achieve, the local and state governments within these countries have undertaken a variety of different ways to deal with cannabis reform. 

    Most law enforcement personnel would tell you off the record that if they could legalize any one drug, it would be cannabis. After all, cannabis users don’t pose a threat to anything but pints of ice cream and french fries. With this in mind, cities and states are increasingly choosing between decriminalization and legalization when it comes to cannabis reform. G13 Magazine looks at the different approaches and how they affect local cannabis users.


    Cannabis decriminalization is not out and out legalization, but the act of reducing the penalties associated with cannabis use from jail time and arrest down to simple fines or minor infractions. This method of cannabis reform is most common in conservative areas where the general public has realized that cannabis prohibition is not good policy, but there aren’t enough votes for full legalization. 

    Decriminalization allows citizens to possess small amounts of cannabis without worry of being incarcerated. This also gives local police the freedom to concentrate their energy on violent offenders instead of regular people looking for a way to relax aside from alcohol. However, the small fines and infractions  for cannabis possession can still become part of your criminal record if you are caught with it, and that may keep you from accessing employment or educational opportunities.

    In Spain, the use and possession of cannabis in private spaces is not criminalised. In addition, some regions, such as Catalonia and the Basque Country, have established more permissive regulations for cannabis clubs, where members can grow and consume cannabis collectively and privately.


    Cannabis legalization is where cannabis is legal in one form or another (recreational or medical), but the trade of cannabis is regulated and taxed by the state like tobacco and alcohol. There is usually a licensing process for dispensaries and individuals who want to run grow operations. Legalization generates billions of dollars per year in tax revenue for the states which allow legal cannabis. 

    However, the growth of the cannabis business is still stunted by continued prohibition at the national level, which prevents cannabis entrepreneurs from access to banks and financing. The truth is that legalization is the only way forward, and although decriminalization is a step in the right direction, the next giant leap for cannabis reform won’t come until a major, first world country makes it fully legal.

    G13 Club is a private social club for medical and recreational cannabis users based in Barcelona. It is also a space for musical and artistic development that promotes a multitude of activities focused on the expression and exhibition of urban, hip hop, reggae and skate culture.

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