Pennsylvania Cannabis Information Portal

Pennsylvania Cannabis Information Portal

Serving the community since 2008.

Marijuana Laws
Learn all about marijuana legislation in Pennsylvania including the laws governing the cultivation, processing, distribution, sales, and use of marijuana and marijuana product
Marijuana Laws
Learn all about marijuana legislation in Pennsylvania including the laws governing the cultivation, processing, distribution, sales, and use of marijuana and marijuana product
Marijuana Business
Pennsylvania has specific licenses for marijuana growers, processors, transporters, dispensaries, microbusinesses, and event organizers. Know what it takes to start a marijuana business in the state
Marijuana Business
Pennsylvania has specific licenses for marijuana growers, processors, transporters, dispensaries, microbusinesses, and event organizers. Know what it takes to start a marijuana business in the state
Medical Marijuana
The Pennsylvania legislature legalized medical marijuana in 2016 by passing the Senate Bill 3 that was signed into law by the governor. However, this law does not allow individuals approved for medical marijuana to cultivate marijuana at home. The first medical dispensary opened in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2018.
Medical Marijuana
The Pennsylvania legislature legalized medical marijuana in 2016 by passing the Senate Bill 3 that was signed into law by the governor. However, this law does not allow individuals approved for medical marijuana to cultivate marijuana at home. The first medical dispensary opened in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2018.
CBD
After Pennsylvania passed the law legalizing the cultivation and processing of hemp in 2016, CBD oil and other CBD products, derived from hemp, became legal. Cannabis-derived CBD products are only allowed for individuals registered under the Commonwealth’s medical cannabis program.
CBD
After Pennsylvania passed the law legalizing the cultivation and processing of hemp in 2016, CBD oil and other CBD products, derived from hemp, became legal. Cannabis-derived CBD products are only allowed for individuals registered under the Commonwealth’s medical cannabis program.

What is the State of Marijuana in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, marijuana is only legal for medical use, but recreational marijuana is illegal. However, the possession of up to roughly 1 ounce of marijuana has been decriminalized in the Cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Medical marijuana was legalized on April 17, 2016, when Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 3 into law to become the Medical Marijuana Act. The Act permitted Pennsylvanians to use marijuana with a physician's approval to treat the qualifying medical conditions listed in the bill. Despite the legalization of medical marijuana in 2016, it remained unavailable to patients until February 15, 2018. Based on the Medical Marijuana Act, a state-licensed system for distributing marijuana to patients was set up. Initially, only non-smokable forms of marijuana were allowed, but this was eliminated in 2018. The Medical Marijuana Program was created as a regulatory body for medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. It functions under the Pennsylvania Department of Health to issue permits to medical marijuana organizations.

Aside from the regulatory responsibility of the program, it also has enforcement authority over the cultivation, processing, sale, and use of medical marijuana in the commonwealth. The program makes medical marijuana available to patients with specific medical conditions, although they are required to:

  • Register with the program through the Medical Marijuana Registry.
  • Get certified by an approved physician that they suffer from one of the qualifying medical conditions for marijuana.
  • Make payment for a medical marijuana ID card.
  • Purchase medical marijuana from an authorized dispensary in Pennsylvania.

As provided by the Medical Marijuana Act, it is mandatory to possess a valid medical marijuana patient or caregiver ID card in Pennsylvania before attempting to purchase medical marijuana. Only original cards will be accepted at the dispensary. Photocopies, screenshots, or other replicas will be denied. When going to a dispensary, be sure to go along with your Pennsylvania state-issued identification card or driver's license. Otherwise, you will not be permitted to enter the dispensary. Only children under the age of 18, if accompanied by an adult with a valid medical card, will be allowed into a dispensary without a patient card or caregiver card. If visiting the dispensary for the first time, prepare for a short consultation with the dispensary staff. There is no law restricting a felon from getting medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, but it is advisable to reach out to the Medical Marijuana Program to inquire about the terms and conditions.

As of July 2021, recreational marijuana is illegal, and its use will attract severe penalties. Many attempts have been made toward medical marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania, but the efforts are yet to yield results. On April 20, 2021, Jeff Riedy of the cannabis advocacy group Lehigh Valley NORML organized a rally to help grow support for the legalization of marijuana. During the rally, it was mentioned that Democrat Sharif Street of Philadelphia and Republican Dan Laughlin of Erie are co-sponsoring a bill legalizing recreational marijuana for adults.

Furthermore, in a bid to legalize recreational marijuana, democratic representatives Jake Wheatley and Dan Frankel plan to initiate legislation. If this is passed, adults aged 21 and older will be allowed to possess up to 28.38 grams of marijuana and 5 grams of a marijuana product in solid, liquid, or concentrated form for personal use. Jake Wheatley mentioned that the legislative proposal would lay the foundation for improving social and economic equity. This would be for individuals and communities that are currently or have previously been adversely affected by the criminalization of marijuana and the strict enforcement of simple marijuana possession laws in marginalized communities. The legislation also proposed a seven-member legislatively appointed panel, the Cannabis Regulatory Control Board, to oversee the marijuana industry across the commonwealth.

Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor and U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman also support the legalization of recreational marijuana in the commonwealth. He surveyed residents on the topic in each of the commonwealth's 67 counties in 2019 and revealed in a report to Governor Tom Wolf that as many as 70% of people favor legalization.

How has Marijuana Affected the Pennsylvania Economy?

Legalizing medical marijuana has positively impacted the Pennsylvania economy through sales, tax revenue, and job creation. Since the legalization of medical marijuana in 2016, the number of dispensaries open for commercial activities has climbed up to over 100. As of July 2021, there are 87 dispensaries open across the commonwealth, and thousands of jobs have also been created. A leafly report shows that the total number of marijuana jobs in Pennsylvania as of 2019 was 3,878. The constant expansion of the marijuana program has been in a bid to make marijuana more accessible to patients that need it for medical purposes, but it has also led to the creation of more job opportunities.

There are no official reports detailing the amount of income generated via marijuana taxes in Pennsylvania. However, the Pennsylvania Auditor General released a report in 2018 titled Regulating and Taxing Marijuana. The report evaluated the potential revenue and financial benefits that will accrue from the legalization of marijuana. In the report, the adult population (21 years+) of Pennsylvania, which was about 9,529,309 in 2016, was the focus. A survey by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration shows that, between 2015 and 2016, 8.38% of Pennsylvania adults acknowledged being regular marijuana users. Based on these figures, Pennsylvania's current market for regular marijuana users is about 798,556 adults. To calculate the actual revenue generated from sales in Pennsylvania, $2,080, the average amount spent on marijuana by residents of Colorado and Washington in 2016, was used as a case study. Hence, the total sales of marijuana were estimated to be $1,660,996,480 and $580 million worth of taxable revenue for the commonwealth.

In addition, a report published by the Philadelphia Inquirer showed that medical marijuana dispensaries grossed $132 million in total sales in 2018 when medical sales began.

What is the Marijuana Crime Rate in Pennsylvania?

Since the legalization of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania in 2016, there has been a consistent decrease in the marijuana crime rate, although there were slight increments in some crimes. According to Pennsylvania's Uniform Crime Report, in 2017, 4,239 residents were arrested for the manufacture and sale of marijuana. Of this number, 86.5% were males, making up 3,667, and 13.5% were females, making up 572. The total number of persons arrested for marijuana possession in 2017 was 24,304. This number comprised 77.1% males, making up 18,746, and 22.9% females, making up 5,558. As with the previous years, there was a slight racial disparity in the arrests for the manufacture and sale of marijuana. Here, Whites constituted 48.6% of the 4,239 residents arrested, Blacks constituted 50.3 of that number, while the remaining 1.1% were from other unspecified races. On the other hand, racial disparity in marijuana possession arrests was more significant. Whites constituted 67.2% of the 24,304 arrested, Blacks constituted 32.1% of that number, and 0.8% were from other unspecified races.

In 2018, there was a 10.5% decrease in the manufacture and sale of marijuana offenses from the previous year, 2017. In contrast, there was a 2.9% increase in the number of marijuana possession offenses from 2017. Based on the report, most of the marijuana crimes were committed by persons aged 25 and over. The number of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) offenses recorded in 2018 was 45,435. Compared to the number of DUIs arrests recorded in 2017, there was a 4.7% decrease.

How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana is not randomly issued to patients only because they have any qualifying medical conditions; they are required to possess medical marijuana cards. A medical marijuana card is an ID card issued under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program to authorize a registered patient to purchase, possess, and consume marijuana in the state. A medical marijuana card usually has the patient's name, issuance and expiry date, and passport photograph printed on it. Pennsylvania only authorizes the use of medical marijuana by registered patients for the treatment of any of these qualifying medical conditions:

  • Autism
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Crohn's disease
  • Cancer, including remission therapy
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Damage to the brain-spinal cord (nervous tissue of the central nervous system) with an objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity and other related neuropathies
  • Dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Neuropathies
  • Intractable seizures
  • Huntington's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Opioid use disorder for which conventional therapeutic interventions are ineffective or contraindicated or, or for which adjunctive therapy is indicated along with primary therapeutic interventions
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Severe chronic or intractable obstinate pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain
  • Terminal illness

The steps involved in obtaining a medical marijuana card include:

  1. Register with the medical marijuana program - To do this, create a profile with the Medical Marijuana Registry and provide basic details, including your legal name, current address, and contact information. There are three options, namely; Providers, Patients, and Caregivers. Select the one that applies to you. A Pennsylvania driver's license or an ID card issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will be required during the registration. You may visit the DMV Services website for more information on getting a driver's license or ID card in Pennsylvania.
  2. Get an approved physician to certify that you suffer from a qualifying medical condition - The physician must be registered with the Medical Marijuana Registry since they will also have to submit their certifications directly to the system.
  3. Add caregivers if necessary - After your certification has been recorded on the Medical Marijuana Registry by an approved physician, you may designate not more than two caregivers to help with obtaining medical marijuana. The designated caregiver must be a Pennsylvanian who is aged 21 or over. A spouse, parent, or friend of the patient can take up this role. All caregivers must be registered with the medical marijuana program and complete a background check before being approved. Note that patients under the age of 18 must have caregivers.
  4. Pay for the card - Login to complete your medical marijuana ID card application by paying for the card. A medical marijuana ID card costs $50. Patients participating in assistance programs including Medicaid, PACE/PACENET, SNAP, CHIP, and WIC may qualify for fee reductions.

The marijuana ID card is typically delivered to the address entered in the patient's profile within 2-3 weeks. If the card delays in arriving, you can apply for a new one via the "Profile Settings" tab when you log in to your account.

Medical marijuana cards must be renewed yearly. Sixty days before the expiration, a cardholder will receive an email prompting them to renew their card. To renew the card, log in to your patient account and click "Profile Settings." After that, update your personal information where necessary, making sure all information matches your Pennsylvania driver's license or state-issued ID. Save the changes and click "Renew my registration." You will receive a verification email with the next steps to be taken. Get a patient certification from any registered practitioner, not necessarily the same doctor who issued your initial patient certification. Finally, you will receive a new card, which will be printed and sent via mail to the address you entered in the patient portal. The issue date for the new card will be the day after your original card expires. Having a medical marijuana card does not qualify you for growing your own marijuana in Pennsylvania. Only persons that obtain grower/processor permits can grow marijuana in Pennsylvania, and the commonwealth is currently not accepting applications.

What is the History of Pennsylvania Marijuana?

The journey of marijuana in Pennsylvania started quite early. It dates back to when William Penn first founded the commonwealth in 1619. He is most known as the founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, the British North American colony that later became Pennsylvania. Penn specifically established it for farmers to grow hemp upon finding Pennsylvania. Therefore, by 1683, one of the first laws passed under the General Assembly encouraged farmers to grow hemp. Consequently, Pennsylvania manufactured large amounts of the plant in the two years that followed. By 1729, the mass production of hemp led to the creation of the capital of hemp, Hempfield Township, in Lancaster County, which was named for the ​vast quantities of hemp raised there. This continued in Pennsylvania well into the late 1930s when the perception of hemp gradually became altered with the Reefer Madness scare. As a result of this, Governor Gifford Pinchot signed a law banning marijuana in Pennsylvania in 1933.

Regardless, quite a number of farmers continued to grow hemp because their farms had grown the plant for years, and at that time, there was no way to differentiate between industrial hemp and cannabis. This led to many farmers being arrested for continuing to grow hemp plants. However, the perception of marijuana changed again when some local governments began approving measures to reduce marijuana penalties.

Finally, on April 17, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 3 to legalize medical marijuana. This made Pennsylvania the 24th state to legalize cannabis for medical use. Senate Bill 3 passed the House by a 149 - 46 vote and the Senate by 42 - 7. The Bill became the Medical Marijuana Act, which authorized the use of cannabis with a physician's approval for treatment of qualifying conditions. With the enactment of the Medical Marijuana Act, a 5% tax rate was imposed on sales between growers, processors, and dispensaries. The first licensed sales occurred on February 15, 2018, when dispensaries became open to the public. The majority of Pennsylvania voters, 56%, support legislation that legalizes recreational marijuana, according to a 2017 Franklin & Marshall College Poll. Franklin and Marshall had examined the issue for more than a decade, and 2017 was the first time most respondents supported legalization. This indicated a growing cultural acceptance of marijuana use.

On October 24, 2018, Governor Wolf signed House Bill 163 into law to revoke a policy known as "Smoke a joint, lose your license." Under this policy, the possession of marijuana or any other illegal drug attracted a penalty of a mandatory six-month driver's license suspension. State Representative Rick Saccone sponsored House Bill 163, which passed with only one opposing vote in the House and unanimously in the Senate.

In December 2018, during a Q&A session with his constituents on Twitter, Governor Wolf tweeted that he thinks it is time for Pennsylvania to take a serious and honest look at legalizing recreational marijuana. A month later, Wolf announced a statewide listening tour by Lieutenant-Governor John Fetterman, which aimed to gather public input on the idea. A final report presenting the results of the listening tour was published on September 25, 2019. It showed that among the more than 10,000 people that attended the listening tour, 68% supported recreational marijuana legalization. Also, there was almost total support for the decriminalization of marijuana. This led to the governor and lieutenant governor calling for three actions to be taken by the state legislature. This included:

  • Passage of legislation to expunge prior marijuana convictions
  • Passage of legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana
  • Deliberate consideration of legislation to legalize marijuana for recreational use

At the press conference where the result of the listening tour was announced, Governor Wolf made known, for the first time, his support for legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.

Again in September 2020, Wolf and Fetterman attempted to legalize marijuana. Together with a representative from NORML, they held a press conference to further call for the legislature to act. Another press conference in Monroe County was held to make a third call for legalization in the commonwealth on October 13, 2020. However, as of July 2021, recreational marijuana remains illegal in Pennsylvania.