Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Law
Pennsylvania recognizes the effectiveness of medical marijuana in relieving the debilitating symptoms of serious medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), autism, Crohn’s disease, Huntington’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), intractable seizures, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, intractable pain, sickle cell anemia, terminal illness, anxiety disorders, and other neuropathies and neurodegenerative diseases.
Eligible residents can obtain state-issued medical marijuana ID cards through a simple online process. As of May 2022, there are over 700,000 patients in the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s marijuana registry.
While medical marijuana patients enjoy more privileges than recreational users, they must abide by applicable medical marijuana laws. It is essential to understand your rights and responsibilities to maintain your access to medical marijuana.
This article covers the history of medical marijuana legislation in Pennsylvania, relevant laws, and common questions Pennsylvania residents ask about the state’s program. Understanding the legalities of medical marijuana possession and use will ensure you maximize your experience as a patient.
Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Law History
Pennsylvania passed the Medical Marijuana Act in 2016, legalizing cannabis for symptom management by qualified patients. That year, state officials developed the rules and regulatory apparatus to for PA’s medical cannabis program.
State lawmakers set standards for manufacturers and dispensaries, outlined patient eligibility rules, and created a process to certify physicians to recommend cannabis. The first medical marijuana sale took place in February 2018.
Initial legislation prohibited the sale of flowers and had 18 qualifying conditions. The Department of Health (DOH), which manages the medical marijuana program, issued new regulations in April 2018.
The expansion allowed the sale of herbal cannabis but prohibited smoking marijuana. Patients can only vaporize it. The DOH also added cancer remission therapy, opioid addiction therapy, neurodegenerative conditions, and spastic movement disorders to the list of qualifying conditions.
The DOH also announced in 2018 that it would not share patient status with law enforcement agencies. This decision protects patients' rights to possess firearms. The ongoing federal prohibition of cannabis creates a gray area where patients could lose legal access to guns over their use of medical marijuana. Pennsylvania is one of the few states to offer such protection.
Marijuana Possession Laws in Pennsylvania
According to PA state law, cardholders can possess up to a 90-day supply of medical marijuana at one time. The amount varies based on the limit set by your doctor during your medical marijuana consultation. Patients cannot exceed the 90-day cap or possess marijuana obtained from sources other than licensed dispensaries.
Marijuana possession of up to 30 grams by a non-cardholder is a misdemeanor punished with 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Possession of larger quantities and subsequent offenses are subject to stiffer penalties.
Pennsylvania Public Consumption Laws
Public consumption of marijuana is illegal, regardless of patient status. Patients can only consume medical cannabis in their homes or other private residences with permission. Employers can permit patients to use marijuana products on their premises but are not required to. Verify your employer’s policies before bringing cannabis to work.
Cannabis use is prohibited on federal property, including public housing and government offices, due to the federal prohibition of cannabis.
Pennsylvania Cannabis DUI Laws
Drivers are prohibited from operating motor vehicles while under the influence of cannabis. Per Pennsylvania law, 1ng/ml of THC metabolites in the blood meets the DUI threshold. Law enforcement can stop drivers on suspicion of intoxicated driving.
First offenses are misdemeanors punished with a minimum of 72 hours of incarceration, a $1,000 fine, and completion of a highway safety education course. Subsequent DUIs are subject to increasing minimum penalties, up to a minimum one-year prison sentence.
Applying for a Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Card?
Pennsylvania medical marijuana cards are issued and managed by the DOH. Any resident with a serious medical condition on the state-approved list who’s at least 18 years of age (or who designates a caregiver who’s at least 21) can apply to enroll in the state’s registry.
The first step is to register online with the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program. You’ll need an email address and a Pennsylvania driver's license or state ID card showing your address to set up an account. Once registered, the system will generate your patient ID number that will link to your certificate.
You can then visit a medical marijuana doctor. Providers must complete specialized training to recommend marijuana. The DOH has a list of approved doctors. Your medical marijuana consultation can be completed using telehealth services.
After the visit, you can log in to your account and pay the $50 application fee (if you participate in any government assistance programs like Medicaid, WIC, or SNAP, you may be eligible for a reduced or waived fee). The DOH will process your application within seven days and mail the card to your home address within 14 days if you’re approved for one.
No. Governor Shapiro included a provision for recreational marijuana legalization in the 2023 budget, and legislators are discussing proposals, but a bill is not currently up for debate. If lawmakers begin the legislative process soon, the earliest recreational sales could begin is January 2025.
As part of any potential recreational program, lawmakers will likely take steps to preserve patient rights. In states with both medical and recreational marijuana sales, cardholders usually have higher possession limits and broader access.
You can legally possess marijuana purchased from a licensed dispensary. Pills, oils, gels, creams, ointments, tinctures, liquids, and botanical cannabis for vaporization are available to patients. These products are sold in various potencies and use different strains of cannabis. Dispensaries have varied selections.
Herbal cannabis for smoking and edibles are illegal. Licensed dispensaries do not sell these products. If you purchased edibles, their cultivation and manufacture were not subject to safety or quality standards.
Possessing cannabis purchased from anyone other than a licensed dispensary or medical marijuana belonging to another patient is illegal.
You can possess up to a 90-day supply of marijuana. Your doctor establishes the approved quantity based on the dose needed to relieve the symptoms of your serious medical condition.
It is essential to be clear and comprehensive about how your symptoms impact your life during your medical marijuana consultation. Your openness will help ensure your purchase limit of cannabis can maximize your quality of life.
Pennsylvania dispensaries do not accept out-of-state medical marijuana cards. It is illegal to transport marijuana across state lines, even if you have a valid medical card, due to the federal ban on cannabis.
Yes. Applicants for patient cards do not undergo a background check to enroll in the medical marijuana registry. However, you cannot become a caregiver if you have a felony because that application requires a background check.