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[dee-krim-uh-nl-ahyz] /diˈkrɪm ə nlˌaɪz/
verb (used with object), decriminalized, decriminalizing.
to eliminate criminal penalties for or remove legal restrictions against:
to decriminalize marijuana.
Also, especially British, decriminalise.
Origin of decriminalize
1965-70, Americanism; de- + criminal + -ize
Related forms
decriminalization, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for decriminalization
  • Sea changes in policy, such as decriminalization or legalization of drugs, look politically untenable.
  • He also smoked his share of marijuana and in his later years called for its decriminalization.
  • Removing profits from drug trafficking through decriminalization would be a better solution than jury nullification.
  • The decriminalization of drugs such as heroin, cocaine and marijuana.
British Dictionary definitions for decriminalization


(transitive) to remove (an action) from the legal category of criminal offence: to decriminalize the possession of marijuana
Derived Forms
decriminalization, decriminalisation, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for decriminalization

1945, from de- + criminal + -ization. Especially in reference to narcotics since c.1968.



1963, "to reform a criminal," back-formation from decriminalization. Meaning "to make legal something that formerly had been illegal" was in use by 1970 (there are isolated instances back to 1867). Related: Decriminalized; decriminalizing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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