Pennsylvania Cannabis Laws You Definitely Need to Know!

Pennsylvania is one of the states in the US that has legalized medical marijuana, but not recreational marijuana. This means that only qualified patients with a medical marijuana card can legally use cannabis for therapeutic purposes, while anyone else who possesses or consumes cannabis for non-medical reasons can face criminal penalties. In this article, we will explain the current status of cannabis laws in Pennsylvania, the requirements and benefits of the medical marijuana program, and the future prospects of cannabis legalization in the state.

Medical Marijuana Laws in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in 2016, when Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 3 into law. The Medical Marijuana Act created a medical marijuana program that allows patients with certain qualifying medical conditions to obtain and use cannabis products with the recommendation of a registered physician.

Some of the qualifying medical conditions include:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Autism
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Intractable seizures
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neuropathies
  • Opioid use disorder
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Severe chronic or intractable pain
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Terminal illness
  • To enroll in the medical marijuana program, patients need to:
  • Be a resident of Pennsylvania
  • Have a valid ID issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
  • Have a certification from a registered physician that confirms their diagnosis and recommendation for medical marijuana
  • Register online with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and pay a $50 fee
  • Obtain a medical marijuana card that is valid for one year and can be renewed annually

Patients who are minors or have a physical or mental disability can designate a caregiver to assist them with obtaining and using medical marijuana. Caregivers need to be at least 21 years old, have a valid ID, pass a background check, and register with the Department of Health as well.

Patients with a medical marijuana card can purchase cannabis products from licensed dispensaries across the state. However, they can only possess or buy a 90-day supply of marijuana according to their physician’s prescription. The law does not specify the quantity of marijuana that can be purchased, but it allows registered pharmacists at dispensaries to recommend the type and form of cannabis products that suit the patient’s needs.

The forms of medical marijuana that are allowed in Pennsylvania include:

  • Oils
  • Pills
  • Tinctures
  • Liquids
  • Topicals
  • Dry leaf or flower (for vaporization only)
  • Concentrates (for vaporization only)

The forms of medical marijuana that are prohibited in Pennsylvania include:

  • Edibles
  • Smoking
  • Beverages
  • Candies
  • Inhalers

Patients can use medical marijuana in their private residences, but they are not allowed to use it in public places, in a motor vehicle, at a workplace, or near a school or playground. They are also not allowed to grow their own marijuana plants, even for medical purposes.

Recreational Marijuana Laws in Pennsylvania

Recreational marijuana is illegal in Pennsylvania, and anyone who possesses or consumes cannabis for non-medical reasons can face criminal charges. The penalties for marijuana possession depend on the amount and the number of offenses.

According to the Pennsylvania Code, the penalties for marijuana possession are as follows:

  • Possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine
  • Possession of more than 30 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine
  • Possession of 8 grams or less of hashish or concentrates is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine
  • Possession of more than 8 grams of hashish or concentrates is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine

However, some cities in Pennsylvania have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, meaning that they treat it as a civil offense rather than a criminal offense. For example, in Philadelphia, possessing 30 grams or less of marijuana is a civil violation that results in a $25 fine, and smoking marijuana in public is a civil violation that results in a $100 fine. Other cities that have decriminalized marijuana possession include Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, State College, Erie, and Bethlehem.

The penalties for marijuana distribution, cultivation, and trafficking are more severe and depend on the amount, the location, and the involvement of minors. According to the Pennsylvania Code, the penalties for marijuana distribution, cultivation, and trafficking are as follows:

  1. Distribution or cultivation of 30 grams or less of marijuana for no remuneration is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine
  2. Distribution or cultivation of more than 30 grams of marijuana is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine
  3. Distribution or cultivation of 2 to 10 pounds of marijuana is a felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine
  4. Distribution or cultivation of 10 to 50 pounds of marijuana is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $50,000 fine
  5. Distribution or cultivation of more than 50 pounds of marijuana is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine
  6. Distribution or cultivation of any amount of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school or within 250 feet of a recreational playground is a felony punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a $40,000 fine
  7. Distribution or cultivation of any amount of marijuana to a minor by an adult who is at least 4 years older than the minor is a felony punishable by up to twice the maximum sentence and fine for the corresponding offense

The Future of Cannabis Legalization in Pennsylvania

Although Pennsylvania has not legalized recreational marijuana yet, there are some signs of progress and support for cannabis reform in the state. In October 2021, two Pennsylvania senators introduced the first bipartisan bill to legalize recreational marijuana, known as SB473.

The bill proposes to create the Cannabis Regulatory Control Board, a state agency that would regulate the legal use, production, and sale of marijuana for adults 21 and older. The bill also proposes to expunge the records of people with past marijuana convictions, allow home cultivation of up to six plants per person, and impose a 6% sales tax on marijuana products, with 25% of the revenue going to social equity programs.

The bill has not been voted on yet, but it has received support from Governor Wolf, who has been vocal about his stance on cannabis legalization. In 2019, Governor Wolf announced that he supports legalizing recreational marijuana, after conducting a statewide listening tour that showed that 68% of Pennsylvanians are in favor of legalization. In 2020, Governor Wolf reiterated his support for legalization, citing the economic benefits and the need for criminal justice reform amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, not everyone in Pennsylvania is on board with cannabis legalization. The main opposition comes from the Republican-controlled legislature, which has been reluctant to consider any bills that would legalize or decriminalize marijuana. Some of the arguments against legalization include the potential health and safety risks, the lack of scientific evidence, the moral and ethical concerns, and the federal prohibition of marijuana.

Therefore, the future of cannabis legalization in Pennsylvania remains uncertain, but not hopeless. As public opinion and political pressure continue to shift in favor of legalization, there is a possibility that Pennsylvania will join the growing number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana in the near future.

Conclusion

Pennsylvania is a state that has legalized medical marijuana, but not recreational marijuana. Only qualified patients with a medical marijuana card can legally use cannabis for therapeutic purposes, while anyone else who possesses or consumes cannabis for non-medical reasons can face criminal penalties.

However, some cities in Pennsylvania have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and there is a bipartisan bill that proposes to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. The bill has not been voted on yet, but it has received support from Governor Wolf, who has been vocal about his stance on cannabis legalization.

The main opposition comes from the Republican-controlled legislature, which has been reluctant to consider any bills that would legalize or decriminalize marijuana. Therefore, the future of cannabis legalization in Pennsylvania remains uncertain, but not hopeless.

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