There are eighteen states in the U.S. that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. The states in which it is legal to possess marijuana for medicinal purposes are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Maryland also passed a law that lowers the penalty for possession of marijuana if proven that it was for medicinal purposes, but it is still technically illegal to possess marijuana for any purpose in Maryland. Pennsylvania is not on that list because Pennsylvania is not among the more progressive states that have legalized medicinal marijuana.
In addition to allowing medical marijuana, some states have also decriminalized the possession of a small amount of marijuana. Decriminalizing means that it will not result in jail time and it will not appear on your criminal record. It is comparable to a minor traffic violation. This has been in the news a lot over the last few years and the number of states that are decriminalizing the possession of a small amount of marijuana has been growing. The amount that is allowed to be possessed without being criminalized varies from state to state. The states that currently have decriminalized the possession of a small amount of marijuana are: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Oregon. Again, Pennsylvania is NOT one of these states.
It is important to know the laws in the state and city in which you live. Although Pennsylvania is not among the states that have decriminalized possession of any amount of marijuana; Philadelphia specifically has in fact decriminalized a small possession of marijuana. In Philadelphia, but NOT in any other parts of Pennsylvania, the possession of thirty grams or less of marijuana is not punishable by jail time; it is punishable by a $200 fine for first time offenders and a $300 fine for all other offenders. This decriminalization only applies to possession of thirty grams of marijuana or less. Possession of more than thirty grams still holds the same penalties as it does in the rest of Pennsylvania, which are discussed below.
Penalties for possession vary greatly based on the amount of marijuana that the person possesses. If you are charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana, it is typically called Simple Possession. Outside of Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, possession of thirty grams or less carries a maximum thirty-day incarceration. In all of Pennsylvania, possession of more than thirty grams carries a maximum one-year incarceration. A first possession charge is eligible for conditional release, which means that first-time offenders may be eligible for probation instead of serving jail time, and would not have the conviction on their criminal record. And a second conviction for possession can lead to a doubled penalty.
If you are charged with possession of a large quantity of marijuana, it may be called Possession With Intent to Distribute. The Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana or the Sale/Distribution of Marijuana are considered greater offenses and carry greater penalties than Simple Possession does. For this crime, the amount that the person is selling determines if the length of incarceration is thirty days, one year, three years, or ten years. There are other factors that can affect the length of jail time as well, such as selling to a minor, selling within 1000 feet of a school or 250 feet of a recreational playground, or having a previous drug conviction.
Possession of drug paraphernalia is also a crime in Pennsylvania. Drug Paraphernalia is considered any equipment, product, or material that is used, or can be used, in introducing marijuana into the human body. This crime can result in up to one or two years in prison.
The charge associated with growing marijuana is called Cultivation of Marijuana. This felony charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence in Pennsylvania of either one year or three years, depending on the amount of marijuana being grown. A mandatory minimum sentence means that the judge does not have any discretion to give a lesser sentence.
In Pennsylvania, on top of the monetary fine and incarceration time, your driving privileges can be suspended after receiving a conviction of any drug offense involving possession, sale or delivery. For the first offense, your license can be suspended for six months; for a second offense, your license can be suspended for one year; and for a third offense, your license can be suspended for two years.
If you have been charged with a drug offense, Chester County attorney John P. Winicov can help you. He will provide aggressive representation and we will handle your case with the care it deserves. Contact us online or call us at 610-692-2096 to schedule your initial consultation so that you can learn more about your rights and options!