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.
New Jersey has legalized weed. Here’s why Pa. may take a different path.
New Jersey voters this week legalized recreational cannabis. Without Republican support, it’s unlikely that the Keystone State will follow anytime soon.
“As long as we’re in the middle of a declared opioid emergency, we shouldn’t be legalizing another drug,” said Jason Gottesman, spokesman for Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R., Centre). “On top of that, revenue projections are that it will only bring in about $200 million a year and that money would only go to new spending.”
Gottesman said there is “no serious discussion” among GOP legislators for a measure similar to the Garden State’s or for expanding the medical marijuana program to include adult recreational use.
The Senate Majority leader was equally adamant. Jake Corman (R., Centre) repeated a statement he made in September after Gov. Tom Wolf urged legislators to consider legalization as a way to help fill the pandemic-driven budget shortfall.
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“It was Winston Churchill who said: ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste.’ We have long maintained that state laws should be changed because they are good policy for the people of Pennsylvania – not because of their potential to generate money,” Corman said. “Movement on this issue should not be expected this fall.”
Democrats and cannabis industry mahoffs believe Republican opposition is shortsighted.
“Forty percent of our state’s population will be a short drive from a Candy Land of legal weed,” Lt. Gov. John Fetterman said.
With this week’s vote, 15 states now will allow adults 21 and over to consume marijuana.
“The only thing that really won Tuesday night was cannabis,” said Adam Goers, vice president of corporate affairs at Columbia Care, a multistate marijuana grower and retailer. “It was the only thing voters could agree on.”
In addition to New Jersey, voters in Arizona, Montana and South Dakota also passed measures for legalization. Arizona’s measure passed 60% to 40%; Montana’s passed 58% to 42%; South Dakota passed 54% to 46%.
“If you’re to the right of South Dakota on anything, maybe you should rethink this,” Fetterman said.
Gottesman, the spokesman for Benninghoff, said Democratic talking points don’t add up.
“When [Republicans] talk about privatizing our liquor stores, we show we need privatization because Pennsylvanians go across the border for better selection and price,” Gottesman said. “The Dems say there is no border bleed. They can’t have it both ways.”
Proponents say they believe that if Pennsylvanians were to vote on legalization, voters would overwhelmingly support it. But because there is no provision in the state constitution that would allow state residents to decide the matter, it’s left up to the legislature.
“The Republicans are willfully thwarting the democratic process in the state and turning down $5 billion in revenue over the next two decades,” Fetterman said. “And they’re turning down tens of thousands of jobs and millions in infrastructure investment.”
Charlie Gerow, a lobbyist in Harrisburg, is the rare Republican who is actively pro-legalization.
“I think it’s a march to the inevitable,” said Gerow, the CEO of Quantum Communications. “It’s just a question of how quickly we get there.”
Economic forces may ultimately bring Republican legislators to the table, Gerow said.
“That’s how you got expanded casino gaming in Pennsylvania,” Gerow said. “If you let Pennsylvania do here what they’re already doing elsewhere, you’ve got a lot of tax revenue.”
Meredith Buettner was appointed executive director of the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition in June.
The New Jersey vote “lights a fire under our legislators,” said Buettner, a self-described “former Republican operative.”
She fears that needed taxes will be lost across the river.
“A [marijuana] dispensary is like having a favorite bar,” Buettner said. “There’s a danger of a significant loss of revenue that is not necessarily 100% reversible” if Pennsylvania doesn’t follow suit.
Steven Hawkins, the executive director of the national Marijuana Policy Project, remains optimistic.
“Fiscal conservatives should be supportive of marijuana legalization. Especially if it’s a choice between taxes going up and cuts in essential services. The market is already there. It’s just illicit at the moment, so why not tax and regulate it now?”
Hawkins said the MPP expects to put pressure on state Republicans by committing resources to educational outreach, putting a lobbyist in Harrisburg, and hiring a state organizer.
“We had five successful ballot initiatives and three of those passed in states that voted for Donald Trump,” Hawkins said. “This is not a red state/blue state issue.”
With the large margins of victory for legalization in some of the deepest of Red States, executives at marijuana companies are hopeful about their Pennsylvania prospects.
“Cannabis could create tens of thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions in infrastructure build, and hundreds of millions in tax revenues for Pennsylvania,” said Erich Mauff, a former Deutsche Bank managing director and co-founder the multi-state marijuana group Jushi Holdings.
New Jersey has only 12 operating cannabis growers and dispensary owners. Pennsylvania, he notes, will have 33 growers and already has more than 80 marijuana retailers scattered across the state. With little effort, the Keystone State could easily segue to an adult recreational market, Mauff said.
“Pennsylvania could jump New Jersey like there’s no tomorrow,” said Mauff, whose Jushi Holding operates Beyond/Hello dispensaries in Pennsylvania.
“You already have a wonderfully managed program. They’re in a wonderful position to unleash a torrent of jobs and infrastructure. The stores in Pennsylvania will be better, the selection will be better, the prices will be better. We could become the best in class.
The GOP remains opposed. But "if you’re to the right of South Dakota on anything, maybe you should rethink this,” said Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.