Marijuana became legal for medical use in Pennsylvania on April 17, 2016, but as of 2023, the state is yet to legalize recreational marijuana. Despite this, the Cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have decriminalized the possession of not more than one ounce of marijuana. The legalization of medical marijuana occurred when Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 3 into law. The Medical Marijuana Act authorizes the legalization of medical marijuana. According to the Act, registered patients in Pennsylvania can use medical marijuana with a registered physician's approval to treat any qualifying medical conditions listed in the bill. Minors with serious medical conditions can also acquire medical marijuana for treatment, but cannot get it directly from the dispensaries. Minors can only get medical marijuana through their caregivers, who must be registered with the medical marijuana program. Patients with valid medical cards for medical marijuana can possess up to a 90-day supply of marijuana. Patients may also purchase marijuana flowers but smoking is illegal. Patients may consume it by vaporization instead of smoking it.
The law does not specify the quantity of marijuana that can be purchased. It instead allows registered pharmacists at licensed dispensaries to recommend the type and quantity of marijuana products patients should purchase. Patients may only possess a 90-day supply of marijuana, as recommended by a pharmacist. If they are found with medical marijuana exceeding the amount prescribed, they could face criminal penalties. Likewise, all patients must register under the state's medical marijuana program. Any unregistered patient found with medical marijuana will face criminal penalties.
Using marijuana for recreational purposes is illegal in Pennsylvania. In a bid to legalize recreational cannabis, two Pennsylvania senators introduced the first bipartisan bill, known as SB473, in October 2021.The bill seeks to create the Cannabis Regulatory Control Board, a state agency tasked with regulating legal use of marijuana. Although the bill was first considered by the senate in 2022, there are signs that it will become law in the near future. One of such signs is the PA Marijuana Pardon Project created by the Governor in September 2022. Through the project, the state will pardon Pennsylvanians with minor marijuana-related convictions.
Meanwhile, medical marijuana is legal for persons with one or more qualifying conditions. The Medical Marijuana Act enacted in 2016 is the law guiding the legalization of marijuana in Pennsylvania. Here are the most recent amendments of the law made in 2022:
A patient or caregiver may obtain up to a 90-day supply of individual doses of medical marijuana from a dispensary. Seven days before the end of any 30-day period, during the identification card's term, a patient may acquire a 90-day supply for the succeeding authorized period.
A person newly registering as a caregiver under this section shall submit their fingerprints to the Pennsylvania State Police or its authorized agent for a criminal history background check. After this, the fingerprints will be submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to verify the applicant's identity and obtain a current criminal history record. The Pennsylvania Department of Health will use this solely to determine the applicant's character, fitness, and eligibility to serve as a caregiver under this act. The DOH shall deny the application of a caregiver who has been convicted of a crime involving the illegal possession or sale of drugs, narcotics, or controlled substances within the past five years. The DOH shall also review the prescription drug monitoring program of the caregiver and deny the application of an applicant who has been previously convicted of a crime involving drug abuse crime or diversion of controlled substances or illegal drugs.
The DOH may approve a medical marijuana organization's application to relocate within Pennsylvania or add or delete activities or facilities. Regardless, a dispensary may interchange the designation of a primary, secondary or tertiary location at any time, including the time before the location becomes operational. However, a written notice must be submitted to the department at least 14 days before the change in designation.
The law restricts financial backers, principals, and employees from holding volunteer positions or positions with remuneration, including clinical registrant positions, if they have been previously convicted of certain crimes. These crimes include felonies related to the production, delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance that violates the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act or similar law. However, ex-convicts may be exempted from the law if:
Section 701 (c.1)
Application programming interface: The section on electronic tracking was amended to include the application programming interface. This implies that the DOH or the DOH's contracted seed-to-sale vendor shall enable two-way automation, communication, and application-programming interface of a medical marijuana organization's enterprise software with the software of the DOH or their contracted seed-to-sale vendor. The software could be software for resource planning, inventory, accounting, and point-of-sale.
This section redefines the roles and limitations of a grower/processor.
This section was amended to include the requirements to use any electronic tracking system the department requires to enable two-way communication, automation, and application programming interface. This will be between a medical marijuana company's enterprise resource planning, inventory, accounting, and point-of-sale software and the software of the DOH or the DOH's vendor.
Independent laboratories shall be contacted to test the medical marijuana produced by the grower/processor. The DOH shall approve a laboratory and mandate the laboratory to report testing results as specified by the department. These tests may include a test at harvest and a test at final processing. The possession by a medical marijuana laboratory shall be a lawful use.
A laboratory shall also conduct stability testing to verify the medical marijuana product's efficacy and purity. A grower/processor shall keep a sample from all medical marijuana products gotten from a harvest batch. They are to request that an approved laboratory identifies and gathers samples from each process to perform stability testing under these two conditions:
The requirements for dispensing to patients and caregivers are stated in this section. A dispensary will be required to have a physician or a pharmacist available to verify patients' certifications and consult with them at all times during the dispensary's work hours. If a dispensary has more than one distinct location, a certified registered nurse practitioner or physician assistant may verify patients' certifications and consult with them in person or by synchronous interaction. The synchronous interaction will be at other individual locations in place of the physician or pharmacist. A physician, physician assistant, pharmacist, or certified registered nurse practitioner must have successfully completed the four-hour training course established in section 301(a)(6). A physician cannot issue a certification to authorize patients to receive medical marijuana or treat patients at the dispensary.
A dispensary may dispense medical marijuana in an indoor, enclosed, secure facility located within the state or in compliance with a curbside delivery protocol specified by the department. A dispensary is required to maintain continuous video surveillance and retain the recordings onsite or offsite for at least 180 days unless needed for investigative or litigation.
The department shall refund from the taxes, fees, and investment earnings of the fund to the general fund, any money allocated for the initial planning, organization, and administration by the department regarding the program's establishment at the time of the original enactment of this act.
The department's authority to adopt temporary regulations to facilitate the prompt implementation of the act shall expire on May 31, 2022. Regulations adopted after this period shall be published as provided by law.
This section provides that a practitioner commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if they deliberately or recklessly provide medical marijuana to an ineligible person or certify an ineligible person as being eligible to receive medical marijuana lawfully.
An employee, operator, financial backer, or principal of any of the following will be guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree if they disclose any information on the use of medical marijuana, except to an authorized person for official governmental or health care purposes:
The exceptions do not apply where disclosure is permitted or required by law or by court order. The department or an authorized employee obtaining information under this act shall not be subject to criminal liability. The immunity this subsection provides does not apply to an employee of the department who deliberately discloses prohibited information under this act.
This section was amended to authorize the department to approve up to 10 clinical registrants, wherein each clinical registrant may provide medical marijuana at up to six separate locations. The total number of locations permitted to dispense medical marijuana under this section shall not be more than 60. The dispensary and grower/processor permits issued to approved clinical registrants under this section shall be along with the 25 grower/processor permits and 50 dispensary permits. The limitations on number and location in sections 616(1) and (2) and 603(d) do not apply. A clinical registrant is only allowed to hold one grower/processor and dispensary permit. Once the department certifies an entity as a clinical registrant, the entity shall comply with this chapter. The department shall:
Suppose the maximum legal number of licensed academic clinical research centers or approved clinical registrants are not approved. In that case, the department will reopen the application process to approve academic clinical research centers and clinical registrants. The department shall not license an applicant for a grower/processor permit if the applicant has had a contractual relationship with an academic clinical research center in the past.
In 2023, the Pennsylvania Senate made a move to further expand the state’s medical marijuana program by allowing cannabis edibles. SB 538, the bill sponsored to achieve this, passed the Senate Law and Justice Committee with a vote of 10-1. This brings it closer to a readingand a vote on the Senate floor.
The Pennsylvania Senate also received a bill to legalize adult-use cannabis in the Commonwealth in 2023. Sponsored by Republican Dan Laughlin and Democrat Sharif Street, Senate Bill 846 was introduced in the Senate on July 6, 2023 and referred to the Law and Justice Committee for consideration.
In the US, medical marijuana is legal in 37 states including Pennsylvania while recreational marijuana is legal in 21 states. Marijuana possession for both medical and recreational use is illegal at the federal level. US lawmakers have shown interest in legalizing weed by presenting two different bills in 2022. The bill presented by the US House of Representatives, known as the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act aims to:
While the MORE Act of 2022 awaits approval from the Senate, another bill, known as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) mainly seeks to decriminalize marijuana possession. Before now, legislators have made attempts to decriminalize or legalize marijuana by passing bills like the 2019 Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act and the MORE Act of 2019. Hemp and other low-THC cannabis products became legal in 2018 thanks to the approval of the US Farm Bill.
The prospect of federal legalization of weed in 2022 has increased in recent times. In October 2022, the US President issued a marijuana reform executive order, which will pardon persons convicted of simple marijuana possession. In the executive order, President Biden asked other states to carry out similar pardons. He also asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to review marijuana scheduling under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act.
Pennsylvanians can use cannabis in the state legally only to treat any of the qualifying medical conditions. Patients sick with any qualifying medical conditions must register with the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program to get valid medical marijuana cards. Patients who do not possess valid medical marijuana cards will not be authorized to use cannabis. Minors can also use medical cannabis. However, minors must be accompanied by their caregivers, who must also possess valid medical marijuana cards. As of October 2022, recreational marijuana is illegal, and its use will attract severe penalties.
Prior to the legalization of medical cannabis in Pennsylvania, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classified cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug. Drugs under this category are not accepted for medical use, as they have a high potential for abuse. Even now, cannabis is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level. The criminalization of cannabis began after the establishment of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 when cannabis was banned across the country. However, Americans' perception of marijuana started to change around the mid-1970s, and some states began to lighten penalties for marijuana possession.
Only state-licensed dispensaries are permitted to sell cannabis in Pennsylvania. Purchasing cannabis from random vendors in the black market is illegal and will attract criminal penalties. Cannabis dispensaries are required to apply for licenses from the state to authorize them to sell marijuana. A dispensary license costs $5,000
Patients aged 21 and over can purchase up to 90 days supply of medical marijuana by visiting the licensed dispensaries and presenting their state medical marijuana ID cards for specific conditions and state-issued identification cards. They may also purchase medical marijuana through their registered caregivers. Minors can use medical marijuana, but they are not allowed to buy it in person. They can only get medical marijuana through their caregivers. Home delivery of marijuana is possible, but the delivery person would be required to pay $50 annually for a permit.
The types of medical marijuana that are legal for sale in the state are pills, extracts, liquids, gels, tinctures, creams, ointments, and flowers. CBD oils that contain less than 0.3 percent THC are legal and can be purchased, while the sale of hash and concentrates and marijuana paraphernalia are not legal. Dispensaries in Pennsylvania accept only cash payments. However, some may accept payment with debit cards in exchange for a minimal ATM fee, while others have ATMs on site. It is advisable to contact the local dispensary to confirm the acceptable payment options before visiting it.
Pennsylvania authorizes the cultivation, possession, consumption, and sale of medical marijuana within the limits of the law. Violating a marijuana law may attract a criminal penalty such as a jail term, fine, and even the confiscation of assets. While adults aged 21 and over can purchase and consume medical marijuana if they have any qualifying medical condition, minors registered under the medical marijuana program can only purchase it through their caregivers. Pennsylvania maintains strict regulations concerning the use of marijuana. Marijuana-related crimes and their penalties are.
Recreational marijuana is entirely illegal in Pennsylvania and cannot be possessed. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, is legal in the state, and registered patients can possess up to 90 days supply of possession of marijuana. However, possessing more than 90 days' supply will attract a charge. Pennsylvania marijuana possession laws comprise of the following charges:
An offender caught possessing marijuana may be eligible for conditional release, wherein the offender will be put on probation for up to a year instead of jail time.
The distribution of marijuana without a state license is a crime. The charges for the possession with intent to distribute marijuana include:
An adult aged 21 and over who violates Pennsylvania marijuana distribution laws by selling to a minor will be charged with a felony and will face double the regular penalties upon conviction.
Growing marijuana in Pennsylvania is only permitted if the grower/processor license is obtained. The Pennsylvania Senate blocked the medical marijuana home cultivation amendment in June 2021. Hence, home cultivation remains a crime in the state even if there is no intention of selling it. It is punishable by 2 and half years to 5 years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine. According to the Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines, possession with intent to deliver less than 10 plants is a felony.
In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to smoke medical or recreational marijuana in private and public places. Only patients with qualifying conditions are allowed to consume marijuana through vaping or ingestion. Qualified patients can consume cannabis legally in private properties. Marijuana consumption in workplaces or rented apartments is subject to employers or landlords, respectively. In most cases, employers do not approve cannabis consumption on the premises. Residents who violate these Pennsylvania marijuana limitations may face civil infractions or misdemeanor charges. The penalties may be more severe if found smoking or using recreational marijuana close to a school or playground.
The possession or sale of marijuana paraphernalia is a misdemeanor punishable with a maximum jail term of 6 to 12 months and a maximum fine of $2,500. Delivering paraphernalia to a minor at least 3 younger is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of 2 years and a maximum fine of $5,000.
The Pennsylvania legislature criminalizes driving while a cannabis metabolite is present in the operator's system, even if there is no impairment. A cannabis metabolite (THC) can linger in a person's system for a few weeks after ingestion. A presumptive test to determine whether a specimen contains a controlled substance or a metabolite of a controlled substance may involve screening the blood specimen using a rapid, inexpensive procedure. A second test will also be conducted to ascertain the minimum threshold for THC or its metabolites. According to the April 30, 2011 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin, any amount at or above one nanogram per milliliter can be introduced in a proceeding for a marijuana DUI. However, this is not enough ground to convict for offenses requiring impairment; actual impairment must be shown.
The penalties are in three levels; these are:
Violating Pennsylvania marijuana trafficking laws is a serious offense which often involves asset confiscation. According to 42 PA Consolidated Statutes § 5802, local law enforcement agencies can seize assets and properties that are linked to proceeds from marijuana trafficking. Examples of assets that may be seized include money, equipment, houses, firearms, and jewelry.
Hashish is classified as a Schedule I drug. Possessing 8 grams or less is a misdemeanor and will attract a penalty of 30 days jail time and a $ 500 fine. The possession of more than 8 grams is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1-year imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Manufacturing hashish is a felony punishable by 2 and half years to 5 years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine. Subsequent convictions for manufacturing hashish are punishable by a maximum fine of $30,000, up to 10 years imprisonment, or both.
Problem-Solving Courts across the state may provide possible remedies for defendants violating Pennsylvania marijuana laws. The aim of problem-solving courts in Pennsylvania is to supervise the rehabilitation and treatment of eligible defendants charged with marijuana-related crimes. Rather than getting jailed for their offenses, defendants receive counseling, educational assistance, and health support.
An alternative to problem-solving courts, known as the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program, is specifically for first-time offenders. ARD for nonviolent and first-time marijuana offenders is a pre-trial diversion program that typically runs for 12 months. Through the program, defendants must take part in drug and alcohol therapy sessions, community service, and frequent drug testing. After the program, the court will drop the charges of offenders who successfully complete it. Apart from taking any drug diversion programs, an offender can challenge the marijuana charges by providing evidence to prove their innocence.
William Penn, founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, in 1619 championed the legalization of cannabis in the 17th century. The main idea behind establishing the province was for farmers to grow hemp. Hence, in 1683, one of the first laws passed under the General Assembly encouraged farmers to grow hemp, making Pennsylvania a large plant manufacturer in the two years that followed. In 1729, Hempfield Township, Lancaster County, was created as the capital of hemp due to the mass production of hemp. Hemp remained legal until the late 1930s, when the perception of hemp gradually became altered with the Reefer Madness scare. Consequently, Governor Gifford Pinchot signed a law banning marijuana in Pennsylvania in 1933.
Towards the end of the 20th century, the perception of marijuana changed again, and some local governments began approving measures to reduce marijuana penalties. Eventually, Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 3 to legalize medical marijuana on April 17, 2016, which 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 Medical Marijuana Act was birthed from this Bill, and it authorized the use of cannabis with a physician's approval for treatment of qualifying conditions. It also imposed a 5% tax rate on sales between growers, processors, and dispensaries. On February 15, 2018, the state recorded its first licensed sales when dispensaries became open to the public.
According to a 2017 Franklin & Marshall College Poll, a larger number of Pennsylvania voters, 56%, supported the legalization of recreational marijuana after examining the issue for more than a decade.State Representative Rick Saccone sponsored House Bill 163, and it passed with only 23 opposing votes in the House and unanimously in the Senate. Governor Wolf signed House Bill 163 into law to revoke a policy known as "Smoke a joint, lose your license" on October 24, 2018. Per the policy, possessing marijuana or any other illegal drug warranted a mandatory six-month driver's license suspension.
Governor Wolf announced a statewide listening tour by Lieutenant-Governor John Fetterman in January 2019, which aimed to gather public input on the idea. On September 25, 2019, the results of the listening tour were published in a report. The results showed that among the more than 10,000 people that attended the listening tour, 68% supported the legalization of recreational marijuana. In addition, almost total support for the decriminalization of marijuana was recorded. Consequently, the governor and the lieutenant governor called for three actions to be taken by the state legislature, including:
Furthermore, for the first time, Governor Wolf declared his support for legalizing the recreational use of marijuana at the press conference where the result of the listening tour was announced. After this, several other attempts through press conferences have been made to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania, but as of 2023, recreational marijuana remains illegal in Pennsylvania.
In Pennsylvania, only medical cannabis has been legalized, but there are still restrictions on its use. They include: