Understanding Cannabis Legislation and Penalties in Pennsylvania

February 19, 2020

Understanding Cannabis Legislation and Penalties in Pennsylvania

A recent report by Politico estimates that by the end of 2020, we may see over 40 states legalizing marijuana across the United States. But in Pennsylvania, medical marijuana is still only legal in certain situations. So what happens if you are caught with possession of marijuana or paraphernalia? We’re breaking down the elements of cannabis legislation and penalties in Pennsylvania. 

Keystone State Cannabis Legislation

In October 2014, Pennsylvania decriminalized the possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis in Philadelphia. Years later, other cities followed, including Pittsburgh. City councils in Erie, Allentown, Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, and most recently Norristown have all officially decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana as well. 

Instead of facing jail time for possession in most cities, the penalties are more like traffic tickets, ranging from $25 to $500. Granted, some individuals are still facing arrest, but the number is starting to decline. In 2019,  21,789 people were arrested for cannabis possession in the Keystone State. However, this data may be skewed as an arrest data set can include any time a stop was made or marijuana is removed from someone’s possession, regardless if charges were filed. It’s important to know that police can still make arrests for marijuana possession at their discretion as marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Medical Marijuana

Marijuana consumption became legal for medicinal purposes on April 17, 2016. Though patients are allowed to use the drug, there are still conditions and regulations which must be met. Patients are only allowed to hold a 30 day supply of medical marijuana.

When the legislation was first enacted, patients could only use cannabis-infused pills, oils, topical ointments, tinctures or liquids. However, in April 2018, dispensaries were able to provide herbal cannabis which meant patients could vape the prescriptions but are still not permitted to smoke it. 

Patients who legally hold a prescription for medicinal marijuana can’t be prosecuted for possession under the law which states, “If a parent or guardian of a minor under 18 years of age lawfully obtains medical marijuana from another state, territory of the United States or any other country to be administered to the minor.”

But if you are not a patient taking medical marijuana and are caught with possession, what can happen to you?

Penalties for Illegal Possession of Marijuana

 If you are caught driving under the influence of marijuana, there are penalties you may face. In all 50 states, driving under the influence of cannabis is still a felony, with a first offense potentially resulting in a 6-month prison sentence and up to a $5,000 fine.

In many cases for the possession of cannabis, it will result in a misdemeanor for a first-time offense. However, if caught selling marijuana, it can be upgraded to a felony depending on the amount you are found with. 

Because marijuana is a schedule I controlled substance, it is categorized as a substance that has a high potential for abuse, like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.

What should I do if I’m caught selling or in possession of marijuana?

The most important thing is to remain calm and do not retaliate or run from authorities. You also need to contact a trusted Scranton drug charge lawyer who can help defend you and minimize your sentence. 

Judges can use their discretion when it comes to marijuana offenses. Let us help you receive the most favorable outcome.

Our NEPA Drug Charge Lawyers Can Help You

At Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano, we will use all our resources to get your drug charges dismissed or reduced, along with getting evidence excluded that could affect your freedom. If you have been convicted of a drug crime, the time to act is now and not later to contact our drug charge lawyers. If this is your first offense, there may be ways to prevent you from having a criminal record. Contact our firm today for a free consultation. 

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