This is proving to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. Now that we have crossed the half-way point, the states featured going forward generally have mixed laws when it comes to cannabis. Some good, some bad, and some ugly. Today we turn to number 16: Pennsylvania.
Our previous rankings are as follows: 17. Delaware; 18. Michigan; 19. New Hampshire; 20. Ohio; 21. New Jersey; 22. Illinois; 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah; 31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas; 46. Kansas; 47. Alabama; 48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma; 50. South Dakota.
Criminal penalties. Pennsylvania punishes possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana with a maximum sentence of 30 days in prison and a potential fine of $500. Possession of any larger amount can earn 1-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine.
Penalties for selling marijuana increase based on the amount of the plant:
Under 30 grams, transferred without remuneration, earns up to 30 days in prison and a $500 fine.
2-10 pounds earns up to one year in prison and a $25,000 maximum fine.
10-1,000 pounds earns up to 3 years in prison and a $25,000 maximum fine.
Over 1,000 pounds earns up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 maximum.
However, the penalties for marijuana crimes may soon change. Pennsylvania lawmakers have discussed decriminalizing the possession of small amount of marijuana. Governor Tom Wolf recently come out in support limiting penalties for cannabis:
There are a lot of reasons to look at decriminalization. I think that’s something that I support. I believe, for a number of reasons, that we ought to decriminalize marijuana use. I think our prisons are over-crowded as a result of people going to jail for reasons that, you know, we break up families for reasons that we shouldn’t.
Medical marijuana. On April 17, 2016, Governor Wolf signed SB3, authorizing a medical marijuana program in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Health will implement the medical cannabis program. The Governor’s office expects implementation to take 18-24 months.
Patients with a qualifying condition may receive a physician’s authorization to use medicinal cannabis. The patient then must register with the state and obtain an identification card. The following “serious medical conditions” qualify a patient for medical marijuana:
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) / AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or ineffective
Sickle Cell Anemia
Patients will purchase their cannabis medicine from medical marijuana dispensaries. The bill also allows universities to research the medical benefits of cannabis.
Bottomline. Pennsylvania shows promise in its marijuana policy. Since it is the sixth largest state in the country, reform goes a long way in the Keystone State. The criminal penalties are somewhat strict, considering that a person can serve jail time for possessing less than thirty grams of cannabis, but Pennsylvania state lawmakers and the governor support decriminalization. And even with its current laws, Pennsylvania punishes marijuana crimes more leniently than many other states covered in this series. Additionally, the state’s medical marijuana program will provide relief for Pennsylvania patients suffering from a wide range of illnesses. Overall though, Pennsylvania is on track to have some of the best marijuana laws on the East Coast and we rank it number 16 on our list.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Three of our California cannabis lawyers (Tiffany Wu, Alison Malsbury and Hilary Bricken) will be putting on a FREE webinar on September 14, moderated by our lead cannabis corporate lawyer (Robert McVay). This webinar will focus on what you should be doing now to prepare your existing or future cannabis business for California’s soon to be legalized landscape. Go here on Eventbrite to sign up to attend.