Pennsylvania Cannabis Laws
Is Cannabis Legal In Pennsylvania?
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Is recreational cannabis legal in Pennsylvania?
No. While recreational adult-use of cannabis is illegal in Pennsylvania, municipalities have decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis. Throughout 2014-2019 these major Pennsylvanian cities lessened their possession penalties of 30 grams to a small fine:
- Philadelphia (2014)
- Pittsburgh (2015)
- Harrisburg (2016)
- York (2017)
- Erie (2018)
- Allentown (2018)
- Bethlehem (2018)
- Lancaster (2018)
- Steelton (2019)
Advocates state that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a recreational cannabis market could help recover the state’s economy. With significant support from Governor Wolf and Lt. Governor Fetterman, the state legislature is pushing for legalization.
Is Medical Marijuana legal in Pennsylvania?
Yes. In 2016, Governor Wolf signed Senate Bill 3 to legalize medical marijuana for patients with a doctor’s recommendation. Licensed patients may receive treatment for qualifying conditions including cancer, anxiety disorders, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, MS, and other diseases approved by the Department of Health.
Patients may also purchase medical marijuana products in many forms, including topical, liquid, tincture, oil, or pill, but smoking is outlawed. Pennsylvania’s first medical marijuana dispensaries began selling to licensed patients in 2018.
Are CBD products legal in Pennsylvania?
Yes. Since the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, hemp-derived CBD products are legal under federal law in the United States, as long as they contain at most 0.3% THC.
Any and all CBD in food and drink is still federally illegal.
What’s Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana sales tax?
Pennsylvania’s retail sales tax of 6% does not apply to patients purchasing prescribed medicinal marijuana products. There is a 5% excise tax on the gross receipts received from the sale of medical marijuana by a grower/processor to a dispensary.
Is cannabis delivery legal in Pennsylvania?
Yes and No. Before Covid-19, home delivery was illegal, but laws in the interim rules have been relaxed during the pandemic. Gov. Wolf has temporarily suspended regulations that require all dispensing to occur inside a dispensary. Patients may now go to a cannabis retailer and have their product brought to their car. Also, caregivers directly may deliver medical marijuana to an unlimited number of patients.
Pennsylvania Cannabis Timeline:
1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.
1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, This act set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession.
1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist, was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act because the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth.” The court’s unanimous opinion of the court was penned by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.
1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon.
This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions are based on its potential for abuse, accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and international treaties.
Classification of Controlled Substances:
Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use
Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use
Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws designed, including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the promotion of the death penalty to be used against “drug kingpins.”
1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs.
2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.
2014: Philadelphia decriminalizes up to 30 grams, punishable by a $25 fine
2015: Pittsburgh decriminalizes up to 30 grams, punishable by a $25 fine
2016:Governor Wolf signed Senate Bill 3 to legalize medical marijuana for patients with a doctor’s recommendation.
2016: Harrisburg decriminalizes small amounts of possession, punishable by a $75 fine.
2017: York decriminalizes up to 30 grams, punishable by a $100 fine
2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act.
2018: Pennsylvania medical marijuana dispensaries opened to patients.
2018: Erie decriminalizes up to 30 grams, punishable by a $25 fine
2018: Allentown decriminalizes up to 30 grams, punishable by a $25 fine for a first offense.
2018: Bethlehem decriminalizes up to 30 grams, punishable by a $25 fine for a first offense.
2018: Lancaster decriminalizes small amounts, punishable by a $25 fine for a first offense.
2019: Steelton decriminalizes up to 30 grams for a first offense, punishable by a $25–$100 fine.
2020: Due to the COVID-19, Pandemic patients may now go to a cannabis retailer and bring their product to their car. Also, caregivers directly may deliver medical marijuana to an unlimited number of patients.