The cultivation of cannabis for recreational purposes is prohibited in Philadelphia County, as adult-use cannabis is illegal in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Only approved growers in Philadelphia County may legally cultivate cannabis pursuant to the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act. Such cultivations must be for medicinal marijuana purposes only. Note that the personal cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes is not allowed. Although possession of small amounts of marijuana (less than 30 grams) has been decriminalized in certain jurisdictions, such as in Philadelphia City, the cultivation of cannabis illegally may attract fines of up to $15,000 and jail terms of up to 5 years. Offenders may also have their driver's licenses suspended for long periods.
Medical cannabis cultivators under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act may only grow cannabis indoors, in enclosed and secure facilities. Approved cultivation facilities must be located within Philadelphia County and have electronic locking systems, electronic surveillance, and other features required by the Department of Agriculture. Recordings of the activities on the cultivation sites must be kept for at least 180 days unless otherwise required for investigative or litigation uses.
Two bills (HB 2050 and SB 473) currently under discussion in the Pennsylvania legislature propose to permit Pennsylvanians to cultivate recreational and medicinal marijuana at home. HB 2050, introduced by Representatives Wheatley and Frankel in September 2021, proposes to authorize Pennsylvanians aged 21 and older to cultivate three mature and three immature plants at home for recreational purposes. SB 473, introduced by Senators Laughlin and Steet in October 2021, proposes to allow medical marijuana patients to cultivate up to five cannabis plants at home.
Cannabis manufacturing is illegal in Philadelphia County except when conducted by approved processors for medicinal marijuana purposes only. Cannabis processors in Philadelphia County may not employ persons under the age of 18 and must comply with all applicable zoning regulations. Cannabis processing must only be conducted indoors, in enclosed, secure facilities approved by the Department of Agriculture.
Section 1151.26 of Title 28 of the Pennsylvania Code requires cannabis processing facilities to have security and surveillance systems. The surveillance systems must use commercial grade equipment to prevent unauthorized entry in order to prevent and detect adverse losses.
The retail sale of adult-use cannabis is illegal in Philadelphia County. However, licensed dispensaries are permitted to sell medical marijuana to qualified patients with valid identification cards. No dispensary in Philadelphia County may dispense medicinal cannabis to a caregiver or patient in a quantity greater than that which the caregiver or patient may possess under certification. A medical cannabis dispensary may also not sell a form of medical marijuana prohibited under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act.
In accordance with the Medical Marijuana Act, a dispensary may not be located within 1,000 feet of a school or day-care center. Medical marijuana dispensaries may not operate on the same site as a facility used for cultivating or processing medical cannabis. A dispensary must also maintain continuous video surveillance, which must be retained offsite or onsite for 180 days, except otherwise required for litigation or investigative purposes.
Cannabis delivery is legal in Philadelphia County pursuant to recent legislation (HB 1024), which relaxed the cannabis delivery rules in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, cannabis delivery was prohibited in Pennsylvania as medical cannabis dispensaries were restricted to sales only within their retail facilities. However, in March 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a notice temporarily easing provisions for medical marijuana. The new provisions permitted cannabis retail stores to serve patients curbside. Prior to the pandemic, existing medical cannabis provisions only permitted dispensaries to dispense up to one month's worth of medical cannabis per consumer at a time. The March 2020 notice extended purchase limits for medical cannabis purchases to three months' worth at a time. In June 2021, the regulation permitting curbside sales of medicinal cannabis was memorialized into law by the Pennsylvania legislature.
Note that medical cannabis dispensaries are also permitted to transport and deliver medical marijuana products to other medical organizations in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in accordance with Chapter 1161.35 of Title 28 of the Code of Pennsylvania. However, such deliveries must be conducted between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
The Pennsylvania medical marijuana card is established under the state’s medical marijuana program. The MMJ card is an identification card permitting the individual named on the card to obtain medical relief from serious medical conditions by legally using medical marijuana. To be eligible to obtain an MMJ card in Philadelphia County, the applicant must be aged 18 or older, be a legal resident of Philadelphia County or another Pennsylvania municipality and have valid proof of residency, and obtain a diagnosis from a physician who is certified to issue medical cannabis attestations. An individual under the age of 18 may also be eligible to obtain an MMJ card with the help of a designated adult caregiver.
The first step in obtaining an MMJ card in Philadelphia County is to create an account or profile on the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Registry. While creating an account, the applicant must provide a valid state-issued driver's license or Pennsylvania-issued ID card as proof of identification. Upon validating the information provided, the applicant will be prompted to create a username and password. After creating these, the applicant's patient ID number will be displayed on the registration page. Consequently, the applicant will receive an electronic mail confirming registration and detailing the process for obtaining a patient certification from an approved physician.
Pennsylvania provides a list of physicians registered with the state medical marijuana program who are eligible to issue valid medical marijuana certifications. During the appointment with the medical practitioner, the practitioner will confirm that the applicant suffers from one of the debilitating medical conditions approved for medical marijuana use in Pennsylvania. These conditions include:
Note that consultation with the medical practitioner is not covered by insurance; hence the applicant will pay for the appointment. Although consultation sessions typically last under 30 minutes, consultation fee ranges between $100 and $250 for new patients.
Upon obtaining approval from the medical practitioner, the applicant must return to the Medical Marijuana Registry to complete the application for the MMJ card. An application fee of $50 is due, although patients participating in assistance programs such as SNAP, WIC, PACE/PACENET, CHIP, and Medicaid may be eligible for fee reductions. After the Pennsylvania Department of Health approves the MMJ application, the Department will print and mail out the MMJ card typically within 7 days. However, it is recommended that the applicant allows for 14 days for the card to arrive before contacting the Department.
The medical marijuana industry in Pennsylvania has continued to contribute to the state's economy through the revenue accruing to the state government via tax. The industry has also created hundreds of jobs for Pennsylvanians by establishing 119 dispensaries to cater to the over 582,000 patients and 343,600 active certifications under the medical marijuana program as of May 2021. Since the medical marijuana marketplace officially got underway in 2018, Pennsylvania has recorded $2.8 billion in total sales, including $1.1 billion in sales from cannabis producers and growers to dispensaries, and $1.7 billion in sales from dispensaries to patients and caregivers, as of May 2021. Note that Pennsylvania charges a 5% excise tax on the gross receipts from medical marijuana sales to licensed dispensaries under the medical marijuana program.
Although medical marijuana was legalized in Pennsylvania in 2016, sales of medical marijuana products did not officially begin until 2018. According to statistics obtained from the FBI UCR (Uniform Crime Reporting) program, DUI arrest rates and arrests figures for marijuana sales and possession have declined since the legalization of medical cannabis.
Prior to the sales of medical marijuana, Pennsylvania recorded 46,904, 46,611, and 45,492 DUI arrests in 2015, 2016, and 2017 respectively. In 2019, DUI arrest figures dropped to a total of 21,137 statewide. Marijuana possession arrest statistics in 2015, 2016, and 2017 in Pennsylvania were 18,470, 20,154, and 23,127 respectively. In 2019, one year after sales began, marijuana possession arrest rates declined to 11,239. Pennsylvania arrest figures for marijuana sales also followed the same trend as DUI and marijuana possession arrests. The record was 4,375, 4,102, and 4,666 arrests for marijuana sales in 2015, 2016, and 2017 respectively. In 2019, the arrest figure for marijuana sales declined to 1,117.