Cannabis in Pennsylvania: Legal, But With Limits


Marijuana, popularly referred to as cannabis, is a plant that contains psychoactive substances that can affect a user’s mood, perception, and cognition. While marijuana is officially prohibited in the United States, certain states, including Pennsylvania, have approved its usage for medicinal purposes. Here is the basic information about Pennsylvania’s marijuana legislation.

Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania

  • Pennsylvania authorized medicinal marijuana in 2016 with the Medicinal Marijuana Act.
  • Individuals with one of 23 qualifying diseases, including cancer, epilepsy, chronic pain, PTSD, or autism, can receive certification from a certified physician and acquire marijuana products from regulated dispensaries under the act.
  • It creates the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board, which will supervise program execution, and regulation, and make suggestions for future legislative revisions.
  • Only non-smokable forms of marijuana, such as oils, tablets, tinctures, topicals, and vaporizers, are permitted. Marijuana use and cultivation remain illegal in Pennsylvania, even for medical purposes.
  • The statute levies a 5% tax on marijuana farmers’ and processors’ gross profits and charges a $50 yearly fee to patients and caregivers who participate in the program.

Recreational Marijuana in Pennsylvania

  • Recreational marijuana use remains prohibited in Pennsylvania, with criminal penalties for possession, growing, distribution, and use.
  • Possession of up to 30 grams is considered a misdemeanor, with a possible 30-day prison sentence and a $500 fine.
  • Possession of more than 30 grams is a crime punishable by up to five years in jail and a fine of $15,000.
  • Cultivation of any amount is a crime punishable by up to ten years in jail and a $25,000 fine.
  • Distributing up to 30 grams without compensation is a crime punishable by up to 30 days in prison and a $500 fine.
  • Over 30 grams or for profit constitutes a crime punishable by up to five years in jail and a $15,000 fine.
  • The public usage of marijuana is a summary violation punishable by a $25 fine.
  • Driving under the influence of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison, a $1,000 fine, and a one-year license suspension.
  • Some Pennsylvania cities and counties, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and York, have decriminalized or reduced the penalties for possession and consumption. Possession of up to 30 grams is a civil violation punishable by a $25 fine, while public use carries a $100 punishment.

Future Prospects for Marijuana Legalization in Pennsylvania

  • There have been several attempts to legalize recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania, but none have been successful.
  • In 2019, Governor Tom Wolf and Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman voiced their support following a statewide listening tour that demonstrated a majority of popular support.
  • In 2020, Wolf suggested legalizing as part of his COVID-19 relief package, focusing on income generation, job development, and addressing racial imbalances in the criminal justice system.
  • The Republican-controlled legislature has continuously rejected or defeated measures legalizing recreational marijuana, citing concerns about public health, safety, and morality.

As a result, the prospects for recreational marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania remain unpredictable and contentious, depending on the political will and public opinion of the state’s legislators and residents.


In summary, Pennsylvania has allowed medical marijuana usage for qualifying conditions since 2016, regulated by the Medicinal Marijuana Act. However, recreational marijuana remains illegal, with strict penalties for possession, cultivation, and distribution. Despite attempts to legalize recreational use, political and moral concerns have hindered progress. The future of marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania remains uncertain, contingent on evolving legislative attitudes and public opinion.

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