Is marijuana legal in Pennsylvania?
Current legality status
Cannabis is legal for qualified patients with a licensed card.
Marijuana is legal for medical use in Pennsylvania for those with qualifying conditions, but recreational marijuana use is still illegal.
If you aren’t a qualified medical cannabis patient, even small amounts of cannabis could lead to a misdemeanor charge and imprisonment.
Here are the penalties for breaking cannabis laws in Pennsylvania:
|Possession||30g or less||30 days|
|More than 30g||1 year|
|Sale or Distribution|
|30g or less for no remuneration (gift)||1/4 oz or less||30 days|
|More than 30g||1/4 oz or less||2.5-5 years|
|Within 1000 ft of a school or within 250 ft of recreational playground punishable by 2-4 years in prison.|
|To a minor, or after a previous drug conviction, brings doubled penalties.|
|Courts are authorized to increase the maximum fine to exhaust all proceeds from drug sales.|
|Cultivation||Any number of plants||2.5-5 years|
|Hash & Concentrates||Possession of 8g or less||30 days|
|Possession of more than 8g||1 year|
|Penalties listed are for hashish. (Concentrates are not further defined.)|
|Penalties for selling or trafficking hashish are the same as the trafficking penalties for marijuana. Please see the marijuana penalties section for further details.|
|Paraphernalia||Possession or sale of paraphernalia||6-12 mos|
|To a minor at least 3 years younger||2 year|
While recreational cannabis is still illegal in Pennsylvania, several bills were introduced in 2019 and 2020 aimed at changing this.
H.B. 1899 for example, was introduced in 2019. This bill would legalize cannabis for adult use similarly to how alcohol is regulated, and would even be sold by stores run by the state Liquor Control Board. This bill was referred to the House Judiciary committee back in September of 2019.
S.B. 350 is another bill that would make recreational cannabis legal for adults 21 and older. It would also provide permits for those in the cannabis industry and allow for expungements for those with previous cannabis crimes on their record. It was referred to agricultural and rural affairs back in October of 2019.
Lieutenant Governor Fetterman also held a listening tour in 2019, to hear what Pennslyvanians had to say about cannabis. He found that 65-70% approve of adult use cannabis legalization and almost unanimously supported expungements for non-violent cannabis crimes.
Shortly after this report, Governor Tom Wolf came out in support of legalizing recreational cannabis in Pennsylvania.
In February of 2020, H.B. 2050 was introduced, which would allow for adult use cannabis legalization and use taxes to support bringing women and minorities into the cannabis industry and to fund educational programs like student loan reimbursement and after school programming. It was referred to the House Health Committee.
Recreational cannabis has not been decriminalized in Pennsylvania at the state level, but many cities, such as Steelton, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, York, State College, Erie, Lancaster, and Bethlehem, have begun reducing penalties for simple cannabis possession.
Pennsylvania medical marijuana laws
Medical cannabis has been legal in Pennsylvania since May 2016, after Governor Wolf signed The Medical Marijuana Act, S.B. 3, into law. Still, it wasn’t until 2018 that dispensaries were able to begin serving patients. The law allows patients with certain qualifying conditions to utilize cannabis if it is recommended by a certified physician.
Qualified patients may keep a 30-day supply of cannabis, although only topicals, oils, pills, tinctures, and infused liquids are allowed. Smoking cannabis is prohibited under this law.
Got your medical card? Find a dispensary in Pennsylvania
If you have your medical card and are ready to get some cannabis, find a dispensary in your area.
Pennsylvania qualifying conditions for medical marijuana
Pennsylvania law only allows patients with certain qualifying conditions to be a part of the medical cannabis program. These conditions include:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Anxiety disorders
- Cancer, including remission therapy
- Crohn’s disease
- Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
- Huntington’s disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Intractable seizures
- Multiple sclerosis
- Neurodegenerative diseases
- Opioid use disorder for which conventional therapeutic interventions are contraindicated or ineffective, or for which adjunctive therapy is indicated in combination with primary therapeutic interventions
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Severe, chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or ineffective
- Sickle cell anemia
- Neurodegenerative diseases
- Terminal illness
For more information on the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Legalization, please refer to the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program.
How to get a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania
- Patients (and any caregivers who might deliver cannabis to the patient) first need to register on the PA department of health website.
- An approved physician must certify that the patient has one of the medical conditions on the qualifying conditions list for cannabis.
- Once approved, patients need to pay $50 for the ID card, which may take up to 21 days for arrival.
- Once patients have their ID, they can use the card to get cannabis at approved PA dispensaries.
Does Pennsylvania accept out of state medical cards?
But it is legal for the parent or guardian of a minor under 18 years of age to lawfully obtain medical cannabis from another medical state to be administered to the minor. This law only applies if the patient is underage, and is set to expire after two years.
When does my Pennsylvania medical card expire?
In Pennsylvania, the certifying physician specifies the length of time until a card expires. The maximum length is 1 year, but for some, it could be shorter.
Pennsylvania marijuana growing laws
Home cultivation of marijuana is not permitted in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania public consumption laws
In Pennsylvania, the law doesn’t mention where medical cannabis use can take place, but smoking it is prohibited even in private. Recreational use or possession in public is illegal, and if you are within 1,000 ft of a school or within 250 ft of a recreational playground it adds to the penalties and is punishable by 2-4 years in prison.
Pennsylvania cannabis DUI laws
A person may not drive, operate, or be in physical control of the movement of a vehicle if there is any amount of a Schedule I substance, including marijuana, or any metabolite of said controlled substance in their system. The legal threshold for THC metabolite in the system of the driver is 1 ng/mL of blood.
Tests include: Blood, saliva, urine
- 1st offense: Mandatory minimum of 72 hours in jail, $1,000 to $5,000 fine, must attend an alcohol highway safety school, and comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements; driver’s license revocation for at least 18 months, may be required to complete 150 hours of community service and may be required to attend a victim impact panel.
- 2nd offense: Mandatory minimum of 90 days in jail.
- 3rd and subsequent offenses: Mandatory minimum of one year imprisonment.
For more information, please refer to Penn. Consolidated Stat. Title 75, Chapter 38, the Controlled Substances, Drugs, Device and Cosmetic Act
Pennsylvania cannabis testing regulations
Medical cannabis, legal in Pennsylvania since April 2016, is, per one media report, “a victim of its own success.” The state has some 60 dispensaries and 200,000 registered patients. Demand has outpaced supply to such a degree that many patients haven’t been able to get what they need. That’s because the number of growers hasn’t risen proportionately, due to licensing hangups and other growing pains.
What does this say about the state of lab testing in Pennsylvania? Wild swings in humidity around the state make the presence of mold a constant challenge, some growers say, but, by law, there are no statistics available on how much prospective product has been screened out—or what might have slipped through.
For more information, check out the Pennsylvania Department of Health testing guidelines.
Common questions about marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania
Can medical patients grow in Pennsylvania?
No. Home cultivation is not allowed in Pennsylvania.
Is Pennsylvania a medical state?
Yes. Medical cannabis is legal for registered patients with qualifying conditions and a doctor’s recommendation.
Can you get a medical card with a felony in Pennsylvania?
It depends. According to the law, the Department of Health may deny, revoke, or suspend a medical card if they have evidence of a conviction in the last five years that relates to sale or possession of drugs.
Are you more likely to get arrested for cannabis crimes in Pennsylvania if you are Black?
Yes. The ACLU found that Black Pennsylvanians were 3 times more likely to get arrested for cannabis than white Pennsylvanians.
Is anxiety a qualifying condition for medical marijuana?
Yes. Anxiety disorders are on the list of qualifying conditions in Pennsylvania.
Learn more about marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania
Here’s some additional resources, news, and references for Pennsylvania marijuana policy.
- Department of Health Page for Pennsylvania Cannabis Patients
- Norml’s Page on Pennsylvania Cannabis Laws
- Marijuana Policy Project’s Page on Pennsylvania Cannabis Laws
- Americans For Safe Access Page on Pennsylvania Cannabis Laws
- Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition’s Page
- The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Education Center
- Cannabis Care PA | Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Journal
Keep up with the latest news about legalization in Pennsylvania
Stay keep current on Pennsylvania’s fast-changing laws by bookmarking Leafly politics and signing up for our newsletter.
Post last updated Sept. 5, 2020