Legalization or Decriminalization?

Is there a difference? When people say they want to legalize drugs, don’t they really mean decriminalize? As in, take away the criminal penalties? Doesn’t legalizing entail specifically creating laws allowing item, act, or behavior?

In reference to drugs, I’m not against removing the penalties, but actually creating laws saying drugs are ok, I’m not so sure about.

There is a difference. Decriminalization of drugs would mean that possession of drugs would no longer be a criminal offence, but instead would be a civil offence. So you could be ticketed and fined for drug possession(like, IIRC, a parking ticket). Legalization of drugs would mean that there are no legal penalties for possessing drugs.

I always understood that decriminalization would mean no penalties, civil or otherwise, for possessing drugs, while the sale and distribution would be punished.

Legalization would be making drugs available in grocery stores or special shops (sort of like liquor stores)

This describes legalizing the possession of drugs with sale and distribution remaining criminal.

No, that would be private licensing. Of course legalization of the sale and distribution of drugs would be a precondition of licensing commercial sales (and implicitly of possession as well).

Even in the most optimistic yet realistic drug liberalization scenarios, most likely there would be no private licensing or even legalization of sale and distribution (except maybe for coffeeshop type establishments). State governments would probably legislate government drug distribution outlets the way they presently do with alcohol in conservative states like Utah. The penalty for individuals selling and distributing would probably be a steep civil fine.

Sort of like liquor stores, but more like drug stores.

Ok, so how does a government go about legalizing drugs? By decriminalizing or by statute?

I don’t know the exact details, but whether it’s decriminalization or legalization, they’re both by statute. I think the first step either way is to repeal previous laws criminalizing drugs. If legalization is your goal, then essentially that takes care of it. OTOH if you’re just looking to decriminalize, then you’d have to create the appropriate new civil laws and penalties.

BTW I’m a little confused by your statement that you would decriminalize drugs but you don’t want laws that say they’re OK. Those statements don’t exactly seem in agreement with one another. Are you just saying you want smaller penalties?

I think maybe where you’re confused is the definintion of “legalize”. We live in a country where (at least in theory), we don’t have to wait for the government to create a law to tell us it’s OK to do something. Whatever hasn’t been outlawed is legal. If it’s outlawed, legalizing it just means repealing whatever laws outlawed it.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t feel the government has no business legislating with respect to what a person does to themselves. To be sure, I have no qualms with legislating negative impacts on society or other persons as a result of drug-taking (i.e., drunk driving, drugging other people, etc.). Further, I have little issue with regulating distribution of such substances, but I don’t think it’s the government’s business whether people want to destroy themselves with drugs, self-medicate for illness, or simply take recreation in drug-taking.

I was just curious as to how people who use those terms with reference to drugs define them. And how to define my own views on the legal issues of drugs.

It sounds like you want to see adult possession of drugs legalized, but the sale and distribution to be regulated. So the remaining open question is whether you would make it a civil or criminal offense for unauthorized individuals to sell or manufacture drugs.

Usually, regulatory penalties are civil in nature. Take alcohol, for example. If I distill liquor illegally, chances are the ATF will come after me wanting to collect excise tax as well as a fine for operating an unlicensed distillery and illegally distributing alcohol (if I recall correctly). Being as how adulterated drugs are potentially a lot more dangerous than alcohol, criminal penalties might not be out of the question.

Personally I think legalization is appropriate for individual possession, gifting, and growing/manufacturing of drugs. Cannabis should be as easily accessible as alcohol. For anything stronger, people should be required to consult a doctor who could either give a prescription or require inpatient treatment. It does sound a little overbearing, but people should get consultation about drug interactions, health risks, and the opportunity to be medically supervised.

That sounds about right. Cannabis shouldn’t even be an issue legally. Users and growers don’t strike me as all that dangerous. Whether my neighbor is growing plants in the backyard doesn’t really affect me. I don’t see any reason for criminal or civil penalties relative to cannabis.

However, I would be a bit concerned about the existence of a meth lab in the apartment below mine. So, manufacture, when it endangers the lives of others, would certainly be a legal issue. Severe criminal penalties, in that case, would not be needlessly intrusive. I would say that if methamphetamines and other ‘hardcore’ drugs were decriminalized, there should be some regulation as to its manufacture, with public safety at the forefront of the goals, including making sure legal drugs are not tainted or misrepresented in their distribution.

Insofar as usage and distribution in minor quantities, I don’t know. Maybe it would be good to have doctors prescribing, but then again, what’s the point? Why should there be a penalty if I want to give my spouse a vicodin from my prescription if he’s having some pain that he’s previously taken vicodin for in the past? The risk is his own if he decides to take it.

In saying that, my main emphasis was on making it easier for people to approach doctors to get access to what they want. Meaning, people should be able to approach their doctor for prescription and assistance with vicodin, heroin, cocaine, LSD, or whatever their heart desires. They shouldn’t need to be giving it to each other because they should be able to easily get what they need. But you did describe one very commonsense scenario where it makes sense to be lenient.

It should be easier enough to get whether you go see your doctor or not. Without insurance, doctor visits can be around $95 or more just to get the prescription. On top of that, with legal drug industry being what it is, the prescription may very well cost over $200. Brings a whole new meaning to designer drugs, when some people can only afford cheap knock-offs.

I used to be inordinately peeved about the recent inconvenience of getting pseudoephedrine-containing cold medications, but it’s not the inconvenience that bothers me as much as having to identify myself to get cold medicine. Why should anyone care that I prefer PSE over phenylephrine (which I don’t think works as well)? It’s the fact that I might manufacture an illegal substance from it. Well, if I can’t afford to go to the doc for prescription methamphetamine, then I just might. (I personally don’t because I don’t do drugs except when I’m sick and even then sometimes I don’t.) Now, we’re back to the meth lab issue.

One way or another, I do feel the gov’t does need to get out of the business of dictating what goes into our bodies.

I think you pretty much answer my question, and this has started getting into IMHO or GD territory, so, by your explanation, I guess I would define my position as legalization (through repealing existing drug laws) of usage and minor distribution; and regulation of manufacture and major distribution. Thanks for clearing that up for me.