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How Marijuana Laws Are Changing in Philadelphia


8/5/2019

Across the country, more and more states are legalizing the use of marijuana – either for medical use or for recreational purposes. As the law continues to develop, a great deal of confusion has arisen. In many states, including Pennsylvania, marijuana is subject to a complex web of federal, state, and local laws, leaving people unsure of exactly what is legal and what’s not. As a result, people find themselves charged with marijuana offenses when they thought what they were doing was legal.

If you’re facing marijuana charges or are wondering whether you are within your legal rights, Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer can help you navigate this confusing area of the law. She will make sure you get a fair result and help you avoid further legal problems. To schedule a free consultation, contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law today at 215-712-1212 to discuss your case and how we can help you.

Pennsylvania State Law

Despite the nationwide trend towards decriminalization, the use, possession, sale, and distribution of marijuana remain illegal in the state of Pennsylvania. Perhaps even more surprisingly, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I controlled substance along with heroin, ecstasy, and LSD. Schedule I drugs are considered to be the most dangerous drugs with a high potential for addiction and no recognized medical use.

Under Pennsylvania law, marijuana offenses can be either felonies or misdemeanors, depending on the charge and the circumstances of your case:

Misdemeanor possession can be charged if you had less than 30 grams of marijuana. Misdemeanor possession is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.00.

Felony possession can be charged if you had more than 30 grams of marijuana. If convicted, you face up to one year in jail and fines of up to $1,000.00

Misdemeanor distribution can be charged if you were distributing less than 30 grams; more than 30 grams and you can be charged with felony distribution. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could face anywhere from 30 days in jail to 10 years in prison.

Marijuana trafficking is a felony offense that can be charged if you were trafficking anywhere from 10 to 50 pounds of marijuana or cultivating more than 10 plants. The penalties can range from three to five years in prison and up to $50,000 in fines.

As you can see, you can find yourself facing very harsh penalties if charged with a marijuana offense under Pennsylvania law.

Medical Marijuana

Of course, the major exception to marijuana’s status as an illegal Schedule I controlled substance is the fact that it is available for medical purposes. This is confusing given its Schedule I classification, which requires that it have no legitimate medical use. This contradiction highlights how confusing Pennsylvania’s marijuana laws can be.

Pennsylvania lays out the steps that you must follow if you want to avoid legal trouble – you can’t simply use marijuana and claim that you have a medical need. You have to first register for the program with Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana registry. Next, you have to get your doctor to certify that you suffer from one of the medical conditions that qualify for medical marijuana use. Then you have to purchase a medical marijuana card. Finally, you can only obtain your marijuana from an approved dispensary in the state of Pennsylvania. Failure to follow these steps could result in your arrest and being charged with a marijuana offense.

Recreational Use

As you may have guessed, the recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in Pennsylvania. However, state legislators have recently signaled their willingness to decriminalize recreational use. Last year, Governor Wolfe stated that it should be given serious consideration, while Lt. Governor Fetterman has announced that he will visit all 67 counties in Pennsylvania to hear from both sides. This follows on the heels of a survey which indicated that 59% of registered voters in Pennsylvania support the decriminalization of recreational marijuana.

Earlier this year, State Senator Daylin Leach introduced Senate Bill 350, which would decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana. A similar bill was reintroduced in the House in February.

The Law in Philadelphia

Even though marijuana remains illegal under Pennsylvania state law, several cities across the state have decriminalized the possession of marijuana. In 2014, Philadelphia voted to decriminalize possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana. If you are arrested with less than 30 grams of marijuana in your possession, you will receive a citation for a civil infraction and a $25 fine. In addition, you could be fined up to $100 for smoking marijuana in public and possibly ordered to perform up to nine hours of community service.

As a result, it remains illegal in the City of Philadelphia to possess more than 30 grams of marijuana. It is also illegal to sell or distribute marijuana in any amount. If you are stopped for smoking marijuana in public and can’t produce a valid ID, you can be placed under arrest.

Federal Law

Finally, the use, possession, and distribution of marijuana remains illegal under federal law and is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. Generally speaking, federal law takes precedence over state law. As a result, there is a possibility that you could be charged with a federal crime despite the fact that it is legal to possess marijuana in the City of Philadelphia.

Why You Need a Marijuana Lawyer

Although we get closer to the decriminalization of marijuana every year, you can still wind up with a criminal charge if you aren’t careful. An experienced marijuana lawyer can help you navigate Philadelphia and Pennsylvania’s marijuana laws to avoid getting into trouble. If you find yourself charged with a marijuana offense, your attorney can help you understand the nature of the charges, evaluate their validity, and then work to either get them reduced or dismissed. Remember, you could face serious fines or significant time in jail or prison if you are convicted.

Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Philadelphia

Although marijuana has been largely decriminalized in Philadelphia, you can still find yourself facing criminal charges. Don’t let the prosecution make you believe that you’re guilty just because you’ve been charged or that your case is hopeless. Contact Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Lauren Wimmer – she will fight for your rights and work to get you a fair result. Call us at 215-712-1212 to schedule a free consultation and discuss how we can help you.