Pennsylvania Marijuana Laws

While many other states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, Pennsylvania has yet to decriminalize this drug except for limited medical purposes. Even the mere possession of marijuana for recreational use can result in serious penalties and consequences that can follow you for the rest of your life if you do not have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side. At Disney Law, our firm is prepared to zealously advocate for your interests and rights if you have been arrested on a marijuana charge in the Pittsburgh area. Call or text Robert Disney at 412-999-5765 or contact us at Disney Law today to schedule a free consultation of your case.

Marijuana in Pennsylvania

Unlike many other states, Pennsylvania does not differentiate between the possession of marijuana plants and ready-to-use marijuana. In addition, synthetic forms of marijuana are also illegal like tetrahydrocannabinols as well as concentrated forms like hashish. Possession of drug paraphernalia to assist in the sale or consumption of marijuana is also against the law. However, marijuana imitator K2 is legal in Pennsylvania.

Possession of Marijuana

In Pittsburgh, a person can be arrested and charged with a crime for the simple possession of marijuana for the purposes of recreational use. The severity of the crime is dependent on the amount in possession at the time of arrest. For possession charges of 30 grams or less of marijuana, a person can receive up to 30 days in jail and a fine up to $500 in addition to a misdemeanor conviction on their criminal record. 

For possession charges of more than 30 grams of marijuana, a first offense is also a misdemeanor crime that comes with penalties of up to one year in jail and fines up to $5,000. However, for second or subsequent convictions of more than 30 grams of marijuana possession the crime is elevated to a felony offense. Penalties for felony possession of marijuana include a prison term up to three years and fines up to $25,000.

Sale or Distribution of Marijuana

The sale or distribution of marijuana is seen as more serious than mere possession in Pennsylvania. The first distinction is whether a person receives money in exchange for the sale of marijuana or if it is given as a gift. Giving 30 grams or less of marijuana to another person without compensation is a misdemeanor offense, with penalties including up to 30 days in jail and a fine up to $500. However, the consequences get much more severe if payment is exchanged for the sale and distribution of marijuana to another person.

The sale of any amount of marijuana under 1,000 pounds in Pennsylvania is considered a felony offense. First time conviction can include penalties of up to three years in prison and fines up to $5,000. Subsequent convictions for this offense elevate the fines up to $25,000 in addition to a prison term. Furthermore, sales of marijuana over 1,000 pounds are also considered a felony offense but come with more serious penalties, including up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $100,000.

It is important to note that if a person is arrested for the sale and distribution of marijuana who is 21 years old or older and not drug-dependent to a person at least four years their junior can be charged with an additional felony offense. Conviction under these circumstances allows a prosecutor to double the normal incarceration penalties for the crime. In addition, on top of the penalties of prison terms and fines, the court can also order other monetary penalties to disgorge any assets or profits made from the sale and distribution of marijuana.

Marijuana for Medical Use

The one significant loophole for the possession and use of marijuana in Pennsylvania is for medical purposes. Medical marijuana was signed into law in 2016, and distribution of medical marijuana began in 2018. However, only people with specific, qualifying medical conditions are allowed to use medical marijuana and must jump through multiple hoops in order to possess marijuana for this purpose. People in Pennsylvania can qualify for medical cannabis if they are suffering from a terminal illness or if they suffer from one of the following conditions:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Autism
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Intractable seizures
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neuropathies
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is ineffective
  • Sickle cell anemia

In addition to suffering from a qualifying condition, a person must also go to a certifying physician, pay for a medical marijuana identification card, and renew your registration regularly. Failure to do any of these steps before procuring marijuana can result in a possession charge, even if its purpose was meant for medical use. 

How a Criminal Defense Attorney can Help 

If you or someone you know has been arrested and charged with either the possession or sale and distribution of marijuana in the Pittsburgh area, it is critical that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Even a misdemeanor criminal conviction can substantially impact future applications for jobs, education, and housing. It may impact your ability to get certain security clearances or professional licenses. Hiring a criminal defense attorney is your best chance at avoiding these consequences.

A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can review the evidence of the charges against you and how that evidence was procured. There may be constitutional search and seizure violations or other problems with the collection of evidence that could get it thrown out of court. An experienced defense attorney also has an established rapport with prosecutors and may be able to secure a plea deal for lesser charges or get the charges dropped altogether. If the case does go to trial, a criminal defense attorney will be able to provide the best possible defense for your case. 

Call or Contact Our Office

If you would like to learn more about your legal options after an arrest for marijuana possession or sale and distribution, call or text Robert Disney at 412-999-5765 or contact us at Disney Law today to schedule a free consultation of your case.