Pennsylvania Marijuana Laws: What You Need To Know
As Pennsylvania works purposefully towards legalizing recreational marijuana, citizens must have an in-depth understanding of the laws related to its use. Currently, Pennsylvania marijuana laws make recreational marijuana illegal in the state. Medical marijuana is, however, available to individuals who have been diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition by a physician and issued a certification from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Even if you can purchase medical marijuana legally, several restrictions must still be followed.
While it is apparent that grey areas to this law still exist, many medical marijuana patients are left feeling confused and scared as to how they can be prosecuted for marijuana possession, even if it is legal medically. In this blog, we will discuss the most important legal components of being a part of the medical marijuana program in Pennsylvania and how you can protect yourself.
Marijuana in Pennsylvania: What’s Legal and What’s Not
As previously mentioned, it is illegal in the state of Pennsylvania to possess marijuana recreationally. However, in 2016, Governor Tom Wolf approved to legalize medical cannabis. As a Pennsylvania state resident, you can receive legal access to medicinal marijuana if prescribed by an approved doctor and acquired through certified dispensaries.
Medical Marijuana Qualifications in Pennsylvania
Current Pennsylvania marijuana laws allow you to possess and use medicinal cannabis with certain qualifying conditions. These conditions include chronic pain, PTSD, cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, epilepsy, and others. To be eligible in Pennsylvania, you must obtain a certification from a qualified doctor stating that you have one of these conditions.
If approved, you can purchase up to 30 days’ worth of cannabis products at any given time. Dispensaries will have various products such as tinctures, oils, and salves, among other things, for medical use only. Also, you must keep your medical marijuana locked away at all times and not share it with anyone else.
Amendments to Pennsylvania Law Regarding Medical Marijuana
As of 2022, the Pennsylvania medical marijuana program has seen several amendments. The most significant of these changes are as follows:
- Expanded List of Qualifying Conditions & THC Amounts: The list of qualifying medical conditions eligible for medical marijuana treatment will be expanded, allowing more people to access the necessary treatments they need. This includes conditions such as chronic pain, neurodegenerative diseases, depression, and anxiety. Additionally, the maximum amount of THC in products will be increased from 10% to 20%, providing more powerful treatment options for patients.
- Larger Number of Dispensaries Across the State: The number and location of dispensaries across the state will be increased, which is expected to make it much easier for qualifying patients to access their medication. Delivery services for medical marijuana products will also be introduced in certain parts of Pennsylvania.
- Revised Regulations to Cannabis Manufacturing: Regulations regarding the manufacturing and dispensing of cannabis-derived medicines have been revised. This means that products should now be safer and of a higher quality than before.
- Pharmacy Prescriptions: Pharmacies registered in Pennsylvania can also provide certain types of cannabis-based medications to qualifying patients with a doctor’s prescription.
Illegal Possession of Marijuana in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania marijuana laws make marijuana possession considered illegal when you knowingly and intentionally possess a usable substance, including any amount of cannabis concentrate. Possessing one ounce or less of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor, and having more than one ounce is an aggravated misdemeanor.
It is also illegal for you to cultivate, manufacture, or deliver marijuana in Pennsylvania. Cultivating, or any activity related to growing marijuana plants, up to 10 lbs. of marijuana paraphernalia with intent to distribute carries a minimum sentence of one year. If the amount of marijuana paraphernalia exceeds 10 lbs., then it will be charged as a felony offense with additional penalties. These include fines and imprisonment, depending on any previous drug conviction or other circumstances.
Driving Under the Influence of Illegal or Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania
Driving under the influence of illegal or medical marijuana is a serious crime. Suppose you are charged with driving under the influence of marijuana in Pennsylvania. In that case, you could face jail time, hefty fines, license suspension or revocation, and other consequences such as community service and attending classes on substance abuse.
Pennsylvania marijuana laws state that it is illegal for you to drive while impaired by any drug or medication, including marijuana. You may have to submit to a special Breathalyzer that tests specifically for marijuana. Other evidence of impairment can be collected through field sobriety tests and physical assessments done by law enforcement officers.
A conviction for driving under the influence of marijuana in Pennsylvania carries with it several consequences. Upon conviction, you could receive one or more of the following penalties:
- A minimum sentence of 48 hours in jail or probation
- Up to six months in jail
- A fine ranging from $500 to $5,000
- Suspension or revocation of your driver’s license for at least one year
- Participation in alcohol highway safety school
- Assignment to a victim impact panel
- Court-ordered treatment
You may also face additional penalties if you were driving with minors in the car, have a previous criminal record related to a controlled substance, or caused injury or death due to driving under the influence.
Employer Rights Regarding Drug Testing for Cannabis Use in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, employers can drug test you for marijuana use. This is particularly true if the employer has a zero-tolerance policy in place regarding the use of illegal drugs. Employers may also be able to conduct pre-employment drug tests if they provide sufficient notice to you before administering the test.
Employers must abide by certain laws regarding drug testing for marijuana use. An employer may not terminate or refuse to hire you solely because you tested positive for cannabis during a pre-employment drug test unless the employer can prove that the controlled substance’s use impaired your ability to perform essential job functions.
What About The Rights of The Employee That Participates in the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Program?
Your rights as an employee in Pennsylvania with a card for medicinal cannabis and protection from discrimination due to using it are very important. According to Pennsylvania law, employers are prohibited from discriminating against you simply because they possess a valid card to use cannabis medicinally. This means that employers cannot discriminate or take adverse action against you because you are enrolled in the program or use cannabis medicinally.
Additionally, the Act also provides protections for you as an employee who does not participate in the program but may need to take part due to a qualifying condition. Specifically, an employer cannot require you to disclose if you have a valid medical cannabis card unless it is necessary for determining drug-free work policies. Employers may also not deny you employment based on your status as either an active patient or caregiver in the program. Employers who violate this law can be liable for damages and penalties according to the Medical Marijuana Act.
A Criminal Defense Lawyer Who Knows Pennsylvania’s Marijuana Laws at Marinaro Law