Will Pennsylvania Legalize Marijuana?

September 13, 2018 / 8:00 pm

There’s change in the air when it comes to Pennsylvania marijuana laws and drug crimes.

Earlier this month, the state began allowing people with medical marijuana cards to buy marijuana in dry leaf form.

This followed previous legislation that let patients purchase medical marijuana as a pill or ointment. The law doesn’t allow them to smoke marijuana but does permit them to consume it with a vaporizer.

Meanwhile, several cities around Pennsylvania have decriminalized the drug, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Allentown, Bethlehem, Erie, York and State College.

But that doesn’t mean Pennsylvania is ready for recreational marijuana, Gov. Tom Wolf told a Pittsburgh radio station on August 8.

Many members of his own party disagree with that assessment, according to the local website Billy Penn.

This list includes Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, the mayors of the state’s two largest cities and even Wolf’s own running mate on the Democrat ballot, John Fetterman, the mayor of the Pittsburgh-area community of Braddock.

“It needs to be taken off Schedule 1,” said Fetterman, who’s running for lieutenant governor. “It needs to stop messing up people’s parole. There’s a human cost to this.”

What does “decriminalization” mean?

When Fetterman used the phrase “Schedule 1,” he was referring to Pennsylvania’s marijuana’s laws.

It’s a Schedule One controlled substance, which – according to the DEA – means it is a drug that has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Other Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.

Some members of the state General Assembly have proposed legislation that will legalize marijuana, permitting the retail sale of the substance and expunging criminal records.

While Wolf doesn’t support legalizing recreational marijuana, he does support decriminalization. In some places, decriminalization allows people to issue tickets and fines to people caught with small amounts of marijuana.

Essentially, the drug isn’t considered legal in these communities, but offenders are no longer subject to arrest and jail time. In Harrisburg, for example, possession is viewed as a summary offense.

This isn’t to say decriminalization is a one-party issue. As Billy Penn’s Sarah Anne Hughes notes, Republican state Rep. Barry Jozwiak has proposed eliminating jail time for people caught with a small amount of marijuana, while state Sen. Mike Folmer has said he doesn’t oppose legalization.

What happens if I get arrested with marijuana?

While some communities in Pennsylvania have decriminalized marijuana, many others have not, which means offenders could still face jail time and heavy fines if convicted of possession.

If you’re found guilty of possession of 30 grams of marijuana or less – a misdemeanor – you could spend 30 days in jail under Pennsylvania marijuana laws. More than 30 grams translates to a year in jail.

And if you’re convicted of selling marijuana in Pennsylvania, you could spend up to five years in prison for drug trafficking and face up to $15,000 in fines.

Drug convictions can carry serious consequences, which is why you need an experienced defense attorney by your side.

At Penglase & Benson, our attorneys have helped defendants get through a variety of drug-related prosecutions, both for marijuana and other substances.

Our lawyers are former prosecutors who have built a trusted reputation among local judges and law enforcement and are committed to getting you the best defense possible.

Contact us today for a free consultation or reach out to us with further questions on Pennsylvania marijuana laws.