What Does It Mean to Decriminalize Marijuana?

A Cross-National Empirical Examination
01 Septiembre 2004

This paper provides a framework for understanding what decriminalization means within the broader context of depenalization. To illustrate these concepts, it provides a detailed discussion of a range of depenalization policies observed in developed countries, highlighting for each country a distinct issue that influences how the policy is implemented and its potential impact.

 

Those interested in analyzing or evaluating the impact of these policies can then use this information to better frame analyses so that policies can be evaluated and compared in a more meaningful way. The paper then demonstrates the problem of using a simple dichotomous indicator, such as “decriminalization”, to differentiate policies within a single country using the United States as the example. It shows that presumed differences in knowledge and enforcement of these laws, factors that should be related to a policy of decriminalization, are not consistent with the current labels that have been given to specific states.

September 2004
Center for the Study of Law and Society Faculty Working Papers
Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, UC Berkeley