verb (used with object), de·crim·i·nal·ized, de·crim·i·nal·iz·ing.
to eliminate criminal penalties for or remove legal restrictions against: to decriminalize marijuana.
Also especially British, de·crim·i·nal·ise.
Origin of decriminalize
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
(tr) to remove (an action) from the legal category of criminal offenceto decriminalize the possession of marijuana
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
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