Monday, February 7, 2011

"Legalization"

Though it seems to have passed into common usage, I have to say that the term "legalization" to mean the removal of criminal penalties for drug sale, use and possession is a particularly bad choice. 

The problem with legalization as the term for removing criminal penalties is that it implies there was something inherently criminal in the first place, or that drug crimes are rightly criminal but we have chosen not to prosecute. We never talk of legalizing property ownership, or working, or marriage. Things which are not proper concerns of the criminal justice system are not "legalized". Even things which were wrongly made illegal at one time (eg. miscegenation, alcohol) are not "legalized" but "decriminalized".

I know it is a petty concern in the scheme of things, and I would not reject a solution over terminology, but it just struck me that the term was a particularly bad choice, and I had to mention it. As it has become the most common term, I will continue to use it (or the better "decriminalization") and won't complain again, just wanted to point this out.

Originally Posted in Examining the War on Drugs on  2008/06/17.

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