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

An Americanism dating back to 1965–70; de- + criminal + -ize
Related formsde·crim·i·nal·i·za·tion, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for decriminalize

legitimize, sanction, regulate, allow, permit

Examples from the Web for decriminalize

Contemporary Examples of decriminalize

  • He once ran for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado, on the Freak Power ticket, promising to decriminalize drugs.

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    Top 10 Misbehaving Literary Rogues

    Andrew Shaffer

    February 7, 2013

British Dictionary definitions for decriminalize




(tr) to remove (an action) from the legal category of criminal offenceto decriminalize the possession of marijuana
Derived Formsdecriminalization or 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

Word Origin and History for decriminalize

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