Possession of Marijuana is still a crime and why the law isn’t changing any time soon in Pennsylvania despite Philadelphia’s “decriminalization.”
While many “cannabis lawyers” believe the Commonwealth will legalize Marijuana in 2023, it is unlikely given what needs to actually happen in the Pennsylvania legislature. Allegedly 6 out of 10 Pennsylvanians want the Commonwealth to legalize the Schedule I narcotic but it remains incredibly controversially as it as seen as gateway drug into other addictions. While there are alleged health benefits to Medical Marijuana, there various health risks associated with it. This issue is at the heart of the marijuana debate in Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia has “decriminalized” Marijuana but it is still a crime in Pennsylvania
While cities like Philadelphia have passed “marijuana decriminalization bills” this simply means that municipalities are not treating it as harshly. Philadelphia, for instance, has chosen, despite state law, to treat the possession of under 30 grams of marijuana as a violation of City ordinance but it technically remains a misdemeanor crime.
Read my article on this issue for more information and watch my videos which address drugs, and other crimes in Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia, however, cannot create laws for itself and only the Pennsylvania legislature followed by the Governor’s signature can change Marijuana laws in Pennsylvania.
Who can make Marijuana legal in Pennsylvania?
The Pennsylvania legislature obviously contains representatives from Philadelphia. It has the ability to pass marijuana legislation for the Governor’s signature. While there are Democrat and Republican Pennsylvania lawmakers Congress that want to legalize marijuana there are still a large number who oppose the legalization for various reasons.
Currently, Republicans hold a majority in both the Pennsylvania House and Senate (28 to 21 in the Senate and 113-90 in the House). State Senators in Pennsylvania are elected to 4-year terms while State Representatives (House) are elected to 2-year terms. With the majority in the House and Senate, the President of the Senate is a Republican, as is the Speaker of the House; the Lieutenant Governor and Governor are Democrats.
Possession with Intent to Deliver (PWID) is a felony crime in Pennsylvania
Possession with the Intent to Deliver (PWID) marijuana remains, however, a felony even with the Philadelphia’s new ordinance. If you are stopped in Philadelphia and arrested on charges of PWID-Marijuana you will be prosecuted and if convicted you will have a felony record. While the law may change in the near future regarding marijuana, it remains a schedule I substance just like heroin, methamphetamines (ecstasy), and LSD. Marijuana is a schedule I drug because it has a high potential for use and has no accepted medical use despite a continued debate on that issue as well.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana is produced from the Hemp Plant (cannabis sativa). The most active chemical in marijuana is THC (delta-nine- Tetrahydrocannabinol). The drug is inhaled through the lungs and goes into the blood stream where it is carried to the brain and other organs throughout the body. This process leads to a state of euphoria or “high”. All marijuana isn’t the same and the strength of the drug is based on the amount of THC it contains. While the US Government again considers Marijuana as a schedule I drug, some states (Washington, Colorado, Alaska) have already legalized its use.
The short term side effects of marijuana are loss of coordination, motor skills and decrease reaction time. These are all points that your criminal defense attorney should consider when evaluating your criminal charges. Long term use of marijuana can result in the same health problems as traditional cigarette smoke. Some experts have classified marijuana as a “gateway drug” which leads to the use of other illegal drugs. Marijuana addicts who attempt to quit experience similar withdraw symptoms as other drug users such as sleeplessness, irritability, anxiety, decreased appetite and cravings.
How serious is marijuana charge in Pennsylvania?
With regards to marijuana and criminal liability, in Pennsylvania, a marijuana dealer previously faced a mandatory minimum of one year in jail if he possessed between 2 and 10 pounds of marijuana or 10 to 20 live plants and a 3 year mandatory minimum (first offense) if this person was found with between 10 and 50 pounds of the drug or 21 to 50 live plants. Mandatory minimums, however, in Pennsylvania for all drugs are now unconstitutional.
At the federal level, however, a marijuana dealer still face mandatory minimum sentences. Federal law even contains a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 days in prison for a second time simple marijuana possession conviction, and a mandatory minimum of 90 days for a subsequent simple possession of marijuana conviction.
When Did Pennsylvania Legalize Medical Marijuana (Cannabis)?
- April 17, 2016 Governor Tom Wolf signed Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act into Law
- The Medical Marijuana Act took effect on May 17, 2017
- Medical Marijuana now available through state licensed dispensaries
- Pennsylvania is the 24th state to adopt a Medical Marijuana Program
Who Is Eligible To Receive Medical Marijuana (Cannabis)?
- A person must have a terminal illness, suffer from cancer, HIV/AIDS or the following conditions:
- ·Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,
- ·Parkinson’s disease,
- ·Multiple sclerosis (MS),
- ·Inflammatory bowel disease,
- ·Huntington’s disease,
- ·Crohn’s disease,
- ·Post-traumatic stress disorder,
- ·Intractable seizures,
- ·Sickle cell anemia,
- ·damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity,
- ·severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin,
- ·In addition to these conditions, Pennsylvania and New Jersey can approve additional debilitating medical conditions.
Marijuana remains a criminal offense at the federal and state level and a proper criminal defense strategy focuses on the same issues that arise in other drug cases. Focusing on issues such as reasonable suspicion and probable cause at the pre-trial level and constructive and actual possession at the trial level are good starting points for any criminal defense. For more information I encourage you to read my books, subscribe to my monthly newsletter, and weekly e-newsletter.
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