Jus Rerum 2020-11-17: 8 Min

Marijuana- Decriminalisation or Legalisation

Author: Vaishali Jethi

Student of University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, School of Law

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This article shows the significant difference between what is decriminalisation of marijuana and legalisation of marijuana means. People often confuse these two terms with being one but fail to understand the technicality of both the words. In this article, the readers will also get to know about some benefits of marijuana, which makes it ground for decriminalising it or if convinced enough, then legalise it. The conclusion of the article also talks about why there is partiality favouritism towards tobacco and alcohol, wherein they are more harmful. 

What is Cannabis?

 Cannabis or also called by many different names: Mary Jane, Grass, Hash, Chronic, Dope, Weed, Ganja and Marijuana. But they all refer to the same mind-altering drug derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. You can smoke it, drink it or even eat it and feel happy or dizzy. 

Difference between decriminalisation and legalisation of Marijuana:

If marijuana is decriminalised, then criminal charges will not be applied. 

Criminal charges are those charges brought against a person by police and legal practitioners on behalf of the government. They are managed through the judiciary system. If a person is accused and convicted, punishment may include imprisonment. The person will also be entitled to a criminal record.

A criminal conviction can result in the breaking up of personal relationships and less availability for future employment, housing and travel. For example, future employers might not consider a job application because of a criminal record. A person's visa might be rejected due to a criminal record. The general stigma of a criminal record may cause mental illness. Having a criminal record can impact on someone's life in several ways.

The process decriminalisation replaces criminal penalties with civil penalties. Civil cases do not go through the court system and may be dealt with by tribunals. While records are kept by a tribunal, these are not criminal records and do not affect employment, housing, or travel opportunities. The key difference is that in a decriminalised model, while penalties still apply for use and possession of drugs, the criminal charges do not exist.

Decriminalisation is not legalisation. If marijuana possession and personal use are decriminalised, it is still illegal to possess and use marijuana. Selling and manufacturing drugs can still carry criminal penalties.


On the other hand, legalisation is the process of bringing control of law over a specified activity that was earlier illegal or prohibited or strictly regulated. In cases related to drugs, it is ordinary applied to acts of supply or sale for non-pharmaceutical use, production, manufacture. Legalisation would mean that these activities, which also include use and possession, would be regulated by states' norms, in the same way as it is legal to use alcohol and tobacco. Still, there can be the existence of some administrative regulations and control, which might be backed up by criminal sanctions (e.g. in cases of juveniles or road traffic).

Difference between wholly psychoactive drugs and marijuana:

Opioids - also called opiates, opioids are derived from either the drug opium itself or chemicals designed to copy it. Opioids work in a way that they interact with neurotransmitters in the brain and block the signals that they are sending. This enables opioids to serve as powerful painkillers, leading to addiction to it. The addiction to opioids is one of the most serious problems faced in today's time. Opioids are one of the most addictive of all known substances, and also some of the deadliest. Some of the most well-known names under this category include Heroin, Fentanyl, Oxycodone.

Cannabis or Marijuana - People believe there are some major benefits of marijuana: First, cannabis can be used for medical treatment; second, decriminalising cannabis would reduce the prison population and save the government money; and most importantly cannabis is safer than alcohol or tobacco.

Medical Treatment:

Supporters believe marijuana should be decriminalised because the plant can be used to help people suffering from some particular medical conditions like Parkinson's disease. People also point to studies done by the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, where it was found that marijuana reduced the nerve pain of patients suffering from cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. Another study done by the same Center found that patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis who smoked cannabis felt less pain. Currently, more than 60 U.S. and international health organisations support the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. 

Decrease the Prison Population:

Supporters believe that decriminalising marijuana will decrease the prison population and save money that the government now spends on enforcing marijuana laws. A great number of arrests were revealed that were made in the city in 2010-11 for possessing marijuana, the Pune police anti-narcotics cell (ANC) informed that in 2010 alone, 108 people were arrested in 65 cases, and over 336 kg marijuana worth over Rs 9.42 lakh were seized. The ANC in a press statement said till June 2011, the ANC arrested as many as 37 persons in 30 cases of the marijuana trade.
Safer Than Alcohol or Tobacco:

It is also believed that the use of cannabis is safer than using alcohol or tobacco. It was found that about 50,000 people each year die from alcohol poisoning, and more than 40,000 deaths each year are due to the use of tobacco. To highlight the less risk of marijuana, you cannot die from an overdose using cannabis, and it is non-toxic. Yet, both alcohol and tobacco, which cause more deaths each year than cannabis, are legal. 



A question can be raised about why alcohol and tobacco aren't illegal, and they don't have any medical benefits. Yes, they add to the economy, and a great input is received from tobacco in the economy, but the same can be done by marijuana as well. Then why is the word " illegal" always added to marijuana? Just because it gives a little more percentage of relaxation or highness than other legal drugs doesn't make it ground for keeping it illegal. Decriminalising it or legalising it totally depends upon the government, but either of the things can be done as there will be benefits if either of the processes is followed. If certain people think that legalising marijuana is not a correct step then decriminalising it is the answer to it. This way, the concerns of the people who don't support it also remains in the picture along with people who aren't against it.


Please note that the views expressed above represent the opinions of the author. All the information on the website of Jus Rerum is published in good faith and for general information purpose only. We does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information.

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