At Bayview Recovery in Portland, OR, we provide information to help our clients make informed decisions about drug abuse treatment. Understanding how state and federal laws compare can help you understand your rights and the risks you may face in recovery. Decriminalization refers to removing drugs from the list of federally criminalized drugs. Selling, using, or possessing these drugs can result in legal ramifications such as fines or jail time.
The legalization of marijuana by many states opposes the federal law. So far, the federal government has primarily suspended enforcement of the federal mandate in those states.
What Is Decriminalization vs. Legalization?
With 15 states approving the recreational use of marijuana and 36 more giving medical use the nod, many people wonder how the emerging legalization of marijuana may impact substance abuse and addiction. Proponents say loosening laws on marijuana may help curb addiction to more harmful drugs. Those against the trend favor the federal law, which still criminalizes marijuana, a gateway drug.
The decriminalization of drugs typically refers to marijuana in modern times. There’s a disparity between state drug laws that prohibit medical or recreational use of marijuana and federal drug laws that criminalize the possession and use of marijuana. This gray area leaves the marijuana industry in a constant state of wariness about whether the federal government will decide to crack down on a particular dispensary or the industry as a whole in a specific state.
Drugs and the Law
Here are the various ways federal and state laws have affected the legal status of certain drugs in the United States:
- Prohibition: In 1929, in the wake of the stock market crash, Congress passed the 18th amendment prohibiting the manufacture, distribution, and use of alcoholic beverages. This repressive law held sway for 14 years before being repealed by the 21st amendment.
- Criminalization: Future laws sought to criminalize the use of certain drugs by all people or specific people. These laws include excluding minors from the legal sale of tobacco products and federal laws against the use of narcotics and other drugs, including marijuana.
- Legalization: Legalization refers to the regulated sale of certain drugs, including marijuana and alcohol. While state and federal laws govern the sale and consumption of alcohol, marijuana was mostly illegal until states began passing their laws legalizing the medical use of marijuana.
- Decriminalization: Although it seems like this would be a synonym to legalization, decriminalization refers to another concept. While states control the legalization of marijuana and alcohol within their borders, the federal government officially prohibits the use of marijuana. Decriminalization at the national level would reconcile this disparity.
Pros and Cons of Decriminalization
As you can see, decriminalization and legalization are two very different things. Decriminalization refers to the laxity of federal laws. For example, if you get caught with a small amount of an illegal drug, you might not face criminal penalties. You may end up with a fine and no jail time for a first offense. On the positive side, decriminalization reduces unnecessary incarceration and the black market. However, it doesn’t stop criminal activity related to the manufacturer and distribution of drugs.
Decriminalization and Drug Abuse
There is no definitive proof linking decriminalization with the increased use of marijuana other drugs. However, shining light on even a small subset of recreational drug users can help officials and citizens raise awareness. This development may mean that more families feel comfortable to discuss drug use with their loved ones.
Seek Drug Abuse Treatment at Bayview Recovery
Whether you’re battling an addiction to legal or illegal substances, our addiction treatment programs can help. Our addiction therapy services at Bayview Recovery Center include individual and group therapy as part of a holistic treatment plan. Contact us at 855.478.3650 for more information on our substance abuse and mental health treatment programs. Let us help you move ahead toward a life free of drugs.