LEARN | LAWS & REGULATIONS
Is weed legal in Pennsylvania?
Medical marijuana is legal in Pennsylvania, but adult-use (recreational) cannabis remains illegal under Pennsylvania marijuana laws.
Is weed decriminalized in Pennsylvania?
Possession of small amounts of marijuana is decriminalized in certain cities, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, York, State College, Erie, Lancaster, Bethlehem, and Steelton. The Philadelphia law passed in 2014 made the city the largest to decriminalize possession of cannabis at the time.
The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the Medical Marijuana Act (Act 16) on April 17, 2016, legalizing the possession, sale, and consumption of medical cannabis.
Where is it safe to purchase weed in Pennsylvania?
Patients and caregivers must be added to the state’s registry and obtain a medical cannabis ID card in order to purchase medical marijuana from PDH-licensed dispensaries.
If patients are unable to make purchases themselves, they may designate a caregiver to purchase medical cannabis on their behalf and deliver it to them. There are currently no delivery services available to patients other than through a designated caregiver.
Consumers are not subject to any excise tax on medical cannabis purchases, although the law requires growers/processors to pay a 5% excise tax on the gross receipts from the sale of medical marijuana to the dispensary.
Finding licensed dispensaries in Pennsylvania
Medical marijuana cardholders can find licensed dispensaries in Pennsylvania and search by major metro areas including Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.
Where is it safe to consume marijuana in Pennsylvania?
Act 16 does not stipulate where cannabis consumption is allowed; however, cannabis consumption should take place in a private space such as a personal residence.
Possession of marijuana in Pennsylvania
Lawful possession of medical marijuana limits patients to a 30-day supply. Cultivating marijuana is illegal and a felony unless given explicit authorization through the PDH.
Medical Marijuana Registry
Pennsylvania’s Department of Health (PDH) administers the statewide Medical Marijuana Program. Only patients and caregivers who are Pennsylvania residents can obtain medical cannabis from dispensaries in the state.
Each patient must have his or her medical condition verified by a PDH-approved physician in order to acquire a written certification for medical cannabis. A list of all the PDH-approved physicians in the state is available online. You can also find a local physician by visiting our map .
Pennsylvania has set up a patient and caregivers’ registry. Patients or caregivers must register for the Medical Marijuana Program through the registry before seeking a physician’s certification, which confirms the patient has at least one of the required qualifying conditions to obtain cannabis.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- Anxiety disorders
- Cancer, including remission therapy
- Chronic or intractable pain
- Crohn’s disease
- Damage to the brain or spinal cord
- Huntington’s disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Intractable seizures
- Multiple sclerosis
- Neurodegenerative diseases
- Opioid addiction
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Sickle cell anemia
- Spastic movement disorders
- Terminal illness
- Tourette syndrome
- Register for the Medical Marijuana Program
- Obtain a physician’s certification that confirms a diagnosis of one or more qualifying conditions
- Submit $50 fee
Patients in the registry who require assistance obtaining or using medical cannabis may designate up to two caregivers. Caregivers must be at least 21 years old and may only provide care for up to five patients.
PDH-approved caregivers can purchase medical cannabis at an approved dispensary, as well as possess, transport, and administer patients’ medical marijuana after purchase.
- Register for the program
- Provide a state-issued driver’s license or other identification with current address
- Complete a background check
- Pay $50 fee
The Pennsylvania Safe Harbor Letter conveys the state’s approval for caregivers to possess and administer medical marijuana. It is available to parents, legal guardians, caregivers, and spouses of a minor younger than 18 who suffers from one of the medical conditions defined in the Medical Marijuana Act.
Applicants must provide electronic copies of the following:
- A completed Safe Harbor Physician Form
- A completed Pennsylvania background check (caregivers cannot have a drug-related conviction that occurred within the last five years)
- One of these required documents: guardianship papers, a copy of their caregiver status, a copy of their marriage certificate (for spouses)
Pennsylvania does not offer reciprocating recognition of other states’ medical marijuana programs. The medical marijuana program is only open to Pennsylvania residents.
All growers and processors are required to contract with a PDH-approved laboratory to test medical cannabis they produce. Cannabis is tested after harvest and after processing.
- Cannabinoid concentration (THC and CBD)
- Heavy metals
- Microbiological contaminants
- Water activity and moisture content
This page was last updated September 28, 2020.
View the marijuana laws & regulations for Pennsylvania.
Understanding Philadelphia’s Marijuana Decriminalization Bill
Philadelphia made national news earlier this month when Mayor Michael Nutter signed a bill decriminalizing possession of marijuana in amounts up to 30 grams. With a population of over 1.5 million, the “City of Brotherly Love” is now America’s largest city to affect decriminalization. What are the new rules Philadelphians need to understand? And can you still get arrested on possession charges?
Philadelphia Becomes Nation’s Largest City to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession
Philadelphia’s journey toward decriminalization hasn’t been quick or easy. When City Councilman James Kenney first introduced the bill in May of 2014, Mayor Nutter initially took an opposition stance. The Mayor’s opposition to Councilman Kenney’s proposals continued throughout much of the spring and following summer, with Nutter stating in early August, “People in this city… come up to me all the time asking about jobs, asking about housing, or asking about their children’s education, or can we provide more services. No one has come up to me asking, ‘Can you make it easier for me to stand on a street corner in front of some grandma’s house and smoke my joint?’ So let’s be realistic here.”
But as summer slipped into fall, Nutter began to change his mind about Philadelphia’s marijuana policies, noting the city’s high rates of incarceration and arrest related to minor drug possession offenses — particularly along racial lines.
“In particular, we have seen striking racial disparity in arrests for small amounts of marijuana,” said Paul Messing, an ACLU attorney. “We’re hoping new legislation reduces or eliminates that disparity.”
“This will go a long way toward a much saner and a much better policy for people in Philadelphia,” said Chris Goldstein, co-chair of Philadelphia’s chapter of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). “This is something that should have happened earlier in the summer. It would have alleviated almost 1,000 people getting arrested.”
Better late than never, as the saying goes. In early September, the bill finally passed 13-3 through the City Council, and was formally signed by Mayor Nutter on the first of October during a ceremony at City Hall.
“I am very pleased we have reached this commonsense agreement that will improve opportunity for countless Philadelphians,” said Councilman Kenney. “Under this new policy, police will be able to remain focused on more serious offenses, and many young people will be spared the life-altering consequences of a criminal record.”
As Kenney suggests, one consequence of marijuana decriminalization may be increased prosecution for felony offenses such as rape or murder. Because the changes are so new, the ripple effect remains to be seen.
Philadelphia’s New Marijuana Laws and Penalties
It’s important to understand that while marijuana may be decriminalized, that doesn’t mean it’s legal. In simple terms, decriminalization means that a crime punishable by incarceration becomes a civil offense punishable by fines, citations, and/or community service.
So what are the new rules and restrictions?
As of October 20, 2014, possession of 30 grams or less may be penalized with a $25 fine and a citation, while smoking in public may be penalized with a $100 fine and a citation or nine hours of community service. Obviously, these new penalties are far more relaxed than their predecessors; but at the same time, decriminalization can only stretch so far, and certain crimes will remain exactly that — crimes.
For example, it is still illegal (and punishable with jail time) to be in possession of more than 30 grams. The sale and distribution of marijuana also remains illegal despite the provisions of the new bill, regardless of the amount involved in a transaction. Even if a sale involves less than 30 grams, under the new bill it is still considered a criminal offense. Additionally, if a police officer stops an offender for public smoking, and the offender is unable to present some form of identification, he or she can still be placed under arrest. Finally, officers will also confiscate any marijuana they encounter.
It’s also important to keep in mind that while Philadelphia has taken its own initiative, Pennsylvania and federal law still classify marijuana possession as a crime, which puts the city’s decriminalization into somewhat murky legal territory. As a result, the discretion of the Philadelphia Police Department remains a key factor in making arrests, as noted by policy director Chris Goy. As Goy explains, “The police commissioner said that they’re going to do everything they can to implement the bill.”
Of course, individual discretion is never a completely reliable safeguard against potential prosecution, and numerous marijuana offenses can still trigger jail time and the creation of a lasting criminal record. If you’ve been arrested for drug possession, distribution, or other narcotics crimes, call the Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys of Young, Marr & Associates today at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania to set up a totally free and confidential case evaluation.
Effective October 20, Philadelphia's new decriminalization bill means marijuana possession of 30 grams or less will be a civil offense instead of a crime.