Pennsylvania: Tell your legislators it’s time to support legalization!
States with medical marijuana laws
Pennsylvania lawmakers pass medical marijuana improvement legislation
Last update: August 31, 2021
On June 30, 2021, Governor Wolf signed P.L. 210 into law, making several improvements to Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program. P.L. 210 (otherwise known as HB 1024) was sponsored by Rep. Paul Schemel (R-Franklin) and acts on recommendations made by the Department of Health to revise the Medical Marijuana Act, which was signed into law in 2016.
The proposal most notably allows patients to purchase three times as much cannabis as they previously could, and it removes language that steered chronic pain patients to try more dangerous painkillers first. P.L. 210 also narrows the restriction on people with past drug convictions working in or owning medical cannabis businesses. It protects patient safety standards and the product quality of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program while also empowering the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board to continue to consider new medical conditions for eligibility. It will also retain certain flexibilities enacted under the state’s COVID-19 disaster declaration that patients and dispensaries found improved safe access. You can check out a summary of P.L. 210 here and a full summary of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law here.
Less than two years after the governor signed Act 16into law, dispensaries began selling medical marijuana to patients and caregivers in February 2018. MPP has developed a number of fact sheets for Pennsylvania patients, caregivers, doctors, and employers. Please print and share these materials with others, including your physician.
On February 24, 2021, Sen. Sharif Street (D) and Sen. Dan Laughlin (R) introduced bipartisan legislation to legalize adult-use marijuana in Pennsylvania. The proposal prioritizes safety, community reinvestment, social and economic equity, and agriculture and creates vital tax revenue streams for the Commonwealth.
A May 2020 poll found 62% of likely voters in Pennsylvania favor legal, regulated sales of marijuana for adults 21 and older. The survey was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition (PCC) and conducted by Harper Polling.
Senator files decriminalization bill
On January 22, 2021, Sen. Sharif Street filed a bill with the Judiciary Committee to decriminalize up to 30 grams of cannabis.
Currently, possession and distribution of 30 grams of cannabis or eight grams of hashish without intent to sell is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days imprisonment and a $500 fine.
Under SB 107, the penalty for possession and distribution would be reduced to a summary offense and a $25 civil fine. The penalty for smoking cannabis in public places would be reduced to a $100 civil fine.
While the measure is an important step in ending the failed policies of the war on drugs, it wouldn’t reduce penalties associated with paraphernalia. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania cities have been reducing their own marijuana penalties. On August 24, 2020, Upper Darby Township decriminalized simple possession of marijuana, joining Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Steelton, York, State College, Erie, Lancaster, and Bethlehem. In addition to these cities, 27 states and the District of Columbia have all stopped jailing individuals for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Ending prohibition is likely to be a multi-year effort. In the meantime, the state should at least stop criminalizing cannabis consumers, especially when Black people in Pennsylvania are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people.