Just as in the rest of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, medical marijuana is legal in Allegheny County while recreational marijuana remains illegal. The Pennsylvania Legislature legalized medical marijuana through Senate Bill 3 in April 2016, a bill that became Act 16 (Medical Marijuana Act) after the governor's approval. Act 16 established the Commonwealth's Medical Marijuana Program to provide access to medical cannabis for patients with certain debilitating medical conditions.
Cannabis cultivation for medical purposes is legal in Allegheny County. Act 16 requires anyone or entity (corporations, partnership, or associations) that wishes to engage in legal marijuana cultivation to obtain a cannabis grower/processor permit. Permitted medical marijuana growers/processors are prohibited from retail sale of medical marijuana or marijuana products. Per Section 1151.23 of the Pennsylvania Code, all legal cultivation must be done indoors in enclosed and secure buildings. Permitted medical marijuana growers/processors must limit public access to their facilities as stipulated in Section 1151.25 of the Pennsylvania Code. Individuals under the age of 18 are prohibited from entering medical marijuana growers/processors facilities.
Medical marijuana manufacturing is legal in Allegheny County. However, a permit that combines medical marijuana cultivation and processing, known as medical marijuana grower/processor permit, is required for legal medical marijuana manufacturing. Facilities engaged in processing medical marijuana in Allegheny County must comply with the regulations set out in Chapter 1151 of the Pennsylvania Code. Additionally, medical marijuana growers/processors must not process the parts of marijuana plants containing sand, debris, seeds, debris, or stems. If the marijuana plants contain rot, mold, or other bacterial or fungus diseases, they must be at a level acceptable to the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH). Also, no grower/processor must assemble, manufacture, or produce any medical marijuana paraphernalia without obtaining the written permission of the DOH.
According to Section 801 of Act 16, only medical marijuana dispensaries with the requisite permits can legally dispense marijuana to patients or caregivers in Pennsylvania, including Allegheny County. However, they must request patients' or caregivers' identification cards before dispensing medical cannabis.
Medical marijuana dispensaries in Allegheny County must have pharmacists or physicians during business hours, either through real-time online interactions or in person, to verify patients' certifications. Before they dispense medical cannabis to patients, permitted dispensaries must file the receipt of information with the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) using the electronic tracking system provided by the Department. No medical marijuana dispensary in Allegheny County must dispense any form of marijuana prohibited by the Medical Marijuana Act of 2016. Additionally, they must not dispense more than what patients' certifications permit either the patients or their caregivers to possess. Essentially, dispensaries must not dispense medical marijuana products exceeding 30-day supplies to patients or caregivers until the patients are left with only 7-day supplies. All medical marijuana dispensing in Allegheny County must be done indoors, in secured and enclosed facilities.
Medical marijuana delivery in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, including Allegheny County, is legal. Per Section 601(9)(a) of the Medical Marijuana Act, the DOH will grant a permit to a medical marijuana organization if it can maintain tracking, security, and surveillance systems for medical marijuana delivery, among other activities.
The first step to getting a medical marijuana card in Allegheny County is determining eligibility. Only patients suffering from the following medical conditions are eligible to obtain medical marijuana cards in Pennsylvania:
To apply for a medical marijuana card in Allegheny County, a patient living with any of the qualifying medical conditions should register for the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program by creating a profile online on the Medical Marijuana Registry. Caregivers are also required to register for the program (the DOH provides a guide on becoming a medical marijuana caregiver). Applicants must have Pennsylvania ID cards or valid driver's licenses to register for the Commonwealth's Medical Marijuana Program. While creating their profiles on the state’s Medical Marijuana Registry, patients must provide their names, contact information, current addresses, and other required information.
After registering for the medical marijuana program, a patient should get an approved physician to certify that they suffer from a qualifying medical condition. Once certified, the patient should return to the Medical Marijuana Registry and fill out an application for a medical marijuana card and make the required payment. Patients under the age of 18 must have caregivers and can designate up to two of these individuals when completing their applications in the Medical Marijuana Registry.
A medical marijuana card in Allegheny County costs $50. The DOH offers fee reductions for patients who participate in assistance programs such as SNAP, WIC, PACE/PACENET, and CHIP. For further inquiries on getting a medical marijuana card in Allegheny County, eligible patients can contact the DOH via email.
Allegheny County's home state, Pennsylvania, has benefited immensely from the legalization of medical marijuana since February 2018, when the sale of medical marijuana in the Commonwealth started. While medical marijuana sale is not subject to sales tax, the Commonwealth generates revenues from income tax paid on profits made by medical marijuana organizations. Medical marijuana organizations also pay a 5% tax on the gross receipts collected from medical marijuana sales. According to the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Advisory Board, the Medical Marijuana Program had generated $4.8 billion in total sales since implementation, implying a significant boost in the state’s tax revenues.
The crime data reports published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for Pennsylvania also include data for Allegheny County. In 2015, before medical marijuana legalization in the Commonwealth, law enforcement made 18,470 marijuana possession arrests, 4,375 marijuana sales arrests, and 49,904 DUI arrests. In 2016, there were 20,154 and 4,102 arrests for marijuana possession and marijuana sales respectively. The number of DUI arrests (46,611) declined in 2016 compared to 2015. DUI arrests fell further to 45,492 in 2017, but the number of marijuana possession arrests (23,127) and marijuana sales arrests (4,666) increased over the previous year's figures.
In 2018, when the first sale of medical marijuana occurred in Pennsylvania, 23,925 marijuana possession arrests and 9,432 marijuana sales arrests were made by law enforcement, indicating an increase in the number of arrests for both offenses. However, compared to 2017, DUI arrests declined to 44,039. There was a significant drop in marijuana-related arrests in 2019. The Commonwealth recorded 21,137 DUI arrests, 11,239 marijuana possession arrests, and 1,117 marijuana arrests. The FBI is yet to publish the complete arrest figures for 2020 and 2021. However, the arrest figures over the years indicate a downward trend for marijuana-related offenses in Pennsylvania, Allegheny County's home state, following the legalization of medical marijuana.