Consequences of Getting a Medical Card in Pennsylvania

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Benefits of Having a Medical Marijuana Card in Pennsylvania

The following are some of the benefits of getting a Pennsylvania medical marijuana card:

Legal Protection

The purchase and possession of medical marijuana by qualified persons are permitted under Pennsylvania medical cannabis law. Per Section 2103 of Act 16 (Medical Marijuana Act), registered medical marijuana patients and caregivers are not subject to arrest, penalty, or prosecution by any authority within the Commonwealth solely for the lawful use or purchase of medical cannabis. However, current medical marijuana law in Pennsylvania does not provide cardholders with any protection for cultivating marijuana at home for personal consumption. So, registered patients caught growing the plant at home are liable to arrest and prosecution. However, Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 869 to allow cannabis cultivation by qualified patients. The bill is under review in Committee as of November 2023.

Because Pennsylvania has yet to legalize recreational marijuana, it is unlawful to possess marijuana or cannabis products in the Commonwealth without having a medical cannabis card. Offenders can be charged with illegal possession if caught, which is punishable by a fine and/or jail time. Registered medical cannabis patients in the Commonwealth can avoid such penalties by carrying their marijuana cards whenever they are in possession of medical marijuana or cannabis products.

Access for Minors

In Pennsylvania, minors under the age of 18 with debilitating medical conditions can legally access medical cannabis through their caregivers. Recreational cannabis remains illegal in the Commonwealth.

Reasonable Employment Protections

Employees who are medical cannabis patients get some forms of protection in the workplace under Pennsylvania medical marijuana law. Per Chapter 21 of Act 16, no employer may refuse to hire, threaten, retaliate, or discriminate against any employee solely because of their status as registered medical cannabis users. Since employers cannot discriminate against employees who are properly registered in the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program, it is unlikely they will discipline them for failing a drug test if their job roles are not safety-sensitive. However, despite these employees' protections, employers are not required to make special accommodations for those who are medical marijuana patients for medical marijuana use in the workplace. Under Act 16, employers do not have to do anything violating federal law in the name of protecting employees who are marijuana patients. This is why medical marijuana patients cannot be federal employees in the Commonwealth.

While employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees solely because they are medical cannabis users in Pennsylvania, they are permitted to discipline employees for consuming cannabis at work. State law does not protect employees' use of medical cannabis in the workplace. In addition, employers can take adverse actions against employees for working under the influence of marijuana. This particularly applies to employees whose job functions involve safety-sensitive roles like working with heights, high-voltage electricity, public health or safety, and public utilities.


A Pennsylvania medical marijuana cardholder can legally access medical cannabis in states such as Washington DC, Arizona, Nevada, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Louisiana. However, the Commonwealth currently does not recognize out-of-state medical cannabis cards.

Downsides of Getting a Medical Marijuana Card in Pennsylvania

The downsides of obtaining a Pennsylvania medical cannabis card include the following:

Firearm Prohibition

In adherence to federal law as stipulated in the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GAC), Pennsylvania prohibits holders of valid state-issued medical marijuana cards from owning or possessing firearms. The GAC describes medical marijuana cardholders as unlawful users of controlled substances, as listed in the Controlled Substances Act. The mere possession of a medical cannabis card will give rise to an inference that a person is an unlawful user of a controlled substance, according to the Pennsylvania State Police. Such an individual will not be permitted to apply for a license to carry a firearm (LTC) and cannot own a gun.

Driving Restrictions

As mandated by federal law, no marijuana user may be a commercial vehicle driver or obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL). In other words, no medical marijuana patient in the Commonwealth may legally obtain a CDL. Pennsylvania has one of the strictest laws in place for driving with marijuana metabolites in the body system. Medical marijuana patients face high risks of arrest by law enforcement due to the Commonwealth's zero tolerance for any amount of marijuana in the body system while driving.

Whether or not a person is a medical marijuana cardholder, it is a grave offense to drive with any quantity of marijuana or its metabolites over 1 nanogram per milliliter in the blood in Pennsylvania. As minute as it is, driving with any amount of THC over this threshold in the body system is considered a marijuana DUI (driving under the influence) in the Commonwealth. In fact, law enforcement officers do not show that a person was driving impaired before they can prosecute someone for marijuana DUI. The legal consequences of cannabis DUI in the Commonwealth include community service, fines, probation, attendance in highway safety school, driver's license suspension, and/or prison sentence.

Annual Renewal

Pennsylvania medical marijuana cardholders must pay the state's Department of Health (DOH) a $50 fee annually to renew and keep their medical cannabis cards active. The only patients who can enjoy fee waivers are those participating in government assistance programs like PACE/PACENET, Medicaid, CHIP, and WIC. As part of the renewal application process, patients must meet registered medical providers in person or online via telemedicine to reevaluate their medical cannabis needs. Depending on the physician, this consultation may cost them between $100 and $190.

Federal Prohibitions

There are no federal protections for medical marijuana patients in Pennsylvania, as cannabis remains a prohibited substance under federal law. As a result, it is impossible for a medical marijuana cardholder to get hired for federal employment in the Commonwealth. Similarly, a federal employee who decides to get a Pennsylvania medical marijuana may just be on their way out of the job. Also, it is illegal to consume or possess marijuana on federal lands within the Commonwealth. Hence, even with their medical marijuana cards, cannabis patients in Pennsylvania are banned from consuming cannabis in military bases, at national parks, and on any federally funded property, including federally subsidized housing.

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