ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — The use of recreational drugs and the legalization of marijuana is a widely discussed topic amongst politicians and is topical on April 20th (4/20).

Some states in the United States have fully legalized weed, and others have decriminalized it. This has left some pondering the difference between legal and decriminalized.

LEGAL: Legalization is the act of a substance becoming permissible by law. In other words, it means that a once-banned substance is no longer illegal. People can use the substance without worry of being convicted or fined. However, there may be some restrictions set forth with the legalization of a drug, in efforts to keep users safe.

DECRIMINALIZED: Decriminalization is the act of removing any criminal sanctions against a certain drug, including its use or possession under a specified amount. A decriminalized drug is still illegal, but the punishment for it is much less harsh.

As of February 2023, marijuana is legal in 21 states, decriminalized and legal for medicinal use in eight states, illegal but decriminalized for two states, and illegal in 10 states.

Marijuana use is legal in the state of Illinois by way of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, passed by the state’s General Assembly in 2019. The legislation legalized recreational marijuana use on January 1, 2020, allowing adults ages 21 and over to possess up to 30 g (1.1 oz).