Pennsylvania Marijuana Possession Laws

Is Possession of Marijuana Legal in Pennsylvania?

Possession of marijuana is legal for medical marijuana patients and their caregivers in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in 2016 through the Medical Marijuana Act. The Act allows persons with qualifying medical conditions to register for the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program (MMP), administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Some qualifying medical conditions include epilepsy, cancer, HIV/AIDS, damage to the central nervous system, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe chronic pain, and terminal illnesses. 

Otherwise, the possession of marijuana for recreational use is illegal in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance with a high potential for abuse in the Pennsylvania Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act. Thus, according to state laws, possessing marijuana without a medical marijuana card is a criminal offense. However, several Pennsylvania cities, including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Erie, Bethlehem, Steelton, Lancaster, and Harrisburg, have decriminalized marijuana possession and use. While possessing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use remains illegal in those cities, it is no longer a criminal offense but a civil violation. Persons found with marijuana may only receive fines. 

How Much Weed Is a Felony in Pennsylvania?

Possession of weed without a medical marijuana card is illegal in Pennsylvania. Penalties for marijuana possession vary depending on the following factors:

  • Location: Several cities and counties in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have enacted ordinances to decriminalize possession of not more than 30 grams of marijuana. Persons found with marijuana that is less than the local limit may only be cited for civil violations and made to pay fines. For instance, civil violations for marijuana possession of not more than 30 grams (1.06 ounces) by individuals are fined $25 in Philadelphia.
  • Law enforcement agency: While marijuana is decriminalized in certain local jurisdictions, state and federal law enforcement agencies are bound to apply state or federal laws even if the offense was committed within a permitting local government jurisdiction.
  • Age of offender: Penalties for minors are often lesser than for adults found in possession of marijuana in Philadelphia. Persons under 18 years found with marijuana are taken to juvenile courts, where the priority is reformation and rehabilitation.
  • Amount of marijuana found with offender: Persons caught with not more than 30 grams (1.06 ounces) of marijuana or less than 8 grams of marijuana concentrates are charged with small possession of marijuana. Small possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by 30 days of incarceration or $500 fine, or both. Possession of more than 30 grams (1.06 ounces) of marijuana or more than 8 grams of marijuana concentrates is a misdemeanor punishable with a maximum of 6 to 12 months incarceration, a $5,000 fine, or both. Subsequent convictions carry a penalty of a maximum of 18 to 36 months of imprisonment or a $25,000 fine.
  • Intent: While intent is difficult to determine, Pennsylvania typically uses the amount of marijuana found on an individual to determine intent. Marijuana above 30 grams (1.06 ounces) is often determined to be intended for sale or distribution, while marijuana below 30 grams (1.06 ounces) is determined to be for consumption. It is a felony to possess marijuana with the intent to distribute or sell it.
  • Frequency of offense: First-time offenders are penalized differently from repeat offenders. Subsequent convictions may lead to double penalties. 

What Are the Penalties for 1st Time Offense of Possession of Weed in Pennsylvania?

A first-time offense of possession of marijuana is penalized based on the amount of marijuana found with the offender. Penalty for possessing 30 grams or less of weed is punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail or a $500 fine. First-time offenders are eligible for conditional release and may be given one-year probation in lieu of incarceration and conviction. After completing probation, the charge is removed from the individual’s criminal record.

Where to Buy Legal Weed in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act permits licensed dispensaries to sell cannabis to medical marijuana patients and caregivers. 

  • The Act allows no more than 50 dispensaries in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 
  • Each dispensary can sell medical marijuana products in three locations within their designated region.
  • Marijuana dispensaries can only sell cannabis to patients in the forms prescribed by their physicians. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Health maintains a list of licensed dispensaries in the state. Medical marijuana patients can buy up to a 90-day supply of marijuana as prescribed by their physicians.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Buy Weed in Pennsylvania

All medical marijuana cardholders can buy marijuana from dispensaries regardless of their ages. Recreational marijuana is illegal for persons of all ages in the state. Persons without medical marijuana identification cards can neither buy nor consume marijuana legally. 

How Much Weed Can You Carry in Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) permits medical marijuana patients to carry no more than a 30-day supply of marijuana doses as prescribed by their physicians. The medical marijuana card will indicate how much a patient needs per time. It is illegal for persons without medical marijuana cards to possess any amount of marijuana. However, in cities that have decriminalized marijuana, individuals may carry a maximum of 30 grams (1.06 ounces) of marijuana. 

  • Possession of marijuana is mostly a misdemeanor offense, but possession of marijuana in large quantities can result in a felony (possession-with-intent-to-distribute) charge. 
  • It is illegal to carry marijuana paraphernalia without a medical marijuana card. The MMA defines paraphernalia as anything used for planting, cultivating, processing, testing, analyzing, packing, storing, containing, concealing, or using marijuana. It includes such things as bongs, pipes, and grinders. 
  • The possession of marijuana paraphernalia is a misdemeanor and carries 6 to 12 months of incarceration or $2,500 in fine or both.

What Happens if You Get Caught With Weed Under 18 in Pennsylvania?

Minors caught with marijuana in Pennsylvania can be charged with felonies or misdemeanors in juvenile courts. While offenses by minors are considered delinquent acts rather than crimes in Pennsylvania, marijuana cases are taken seriously, and convictions will attract significant punishments.

  • Marijuana possession of not more than 30 grams (1.06 ounces) by a minor is punishable by up to 30 days of incarceration, a $500 fine, or both. 
  • Marijuana possession charge of over 30 grams (1.06 ounces) is punishable with up to a year in jail, a $5,000 fine, or both. 

The court can give a lighter sentence or place the minor on probation. The court will consider a minor’s criminal and drug history, severity, and nature of the offense in determining the sentence. Typically, penalties for marijuana possession by minors in Pennsylvania are more lenient than those of adults, and they include:

  • Diversion: Sometimes called informal probation, it mandates a juvenile offender to comply with specific regulations. Unlike probation, juvenile offenders do not have to appear in court periodically. When a minor offender completes a diversion program, charges are dismissed, and there is no conviction.
  • Probation: This involves a juvenile offender abiding by specific court orders such as community service, maintaining specific school attendance, and sometimes getting a job. The juvenile offender has to appear periodically before the judge to confirm alignment with the order, and at the end of the probation period, the charges are dropped.
  • Drug counseling: A common penalty for minor marijuana offenders in Pennsylvania is for minor offenders and, sometimes, their parents to attend drug counseling. The primary goal is to rehabilitate minors. After the counseling period, the possession charges are dropped.
  • Detention: This is the last option available to a juvenile court, and it is used when others have failed. Detention may involve placing the underage offender for the duration of the detention in a juvenile home, foster home, or home confinement.

How Many Marijuana Plants Can You Have in Pennsylvania?

Home cultivation of marijuana is prohibited in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Medical marijuana patients and caregivers are not allowed to grow any amount of weed at home either.

Growing any marijuana at home can result in a felony charge, and the penalty is up to five years imprisonment or a fine of up to $50,000. 

In June 2021, a bill to allow home cultivation of marijuana for medical marijuana patients failed in the Pennsylvania Senate. However, there are renewed efforts to enact a medical marijuana home cultivation bill. Legislators hope home cultivation of marijuana will allow medical marijuana patients to have easier access to marijuana and reduce the cost of treatment. 

How Much Weed Can You Fly With from Pennsylvania?

The Federal Controlled Substance Act prohibits the possession and use of marijuana in the US. It is classified as a Schedule I substance with a high potential for abuse. Consequently, it is illegal to transport weed from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to another state, even if the person holds a medical marijuana card. 

  • If caught with weed at an airport by federal law enforcement agencies, the penalties are up to 12 months of incarceration and a fine of $1,000 for a first conviction. 
  • A second conviction is punishable with a mandatory 15-day minimum sentence, a fine of $2,500, and up to 2 years of incarceration. 
  • Subsequent convictions carry a compulsory 90-day minimum sentence, a fine of up to $5,000, and up to 3 years of imprisonment.

Is It Illegal to Be High in Public in Pennsylvania?

It is illegal to be high in public in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The state has a zero-tolerance policy for the usage of marijuana. Driving under the influence of marijuana is prohibited. A random drug test can also lead to a misdemeanor if a driver tests positive for marijuana. Medical marijuana patients can also be charged under state law if marijuana is found in their system while driving.