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Learn About Marijuana In Pennsylvania
Frequently Asked Questions About Marijuana in Pennsylvania
Stretching from the Atlantic Coast to Lake Erie, Pennsylvania is both one of the largest states in the northeast and one of the most populated. With nearly 13 million residents, Pennsylvania has remained a prominent force in American history since the signing of Declaration of Independence. As marijuana legalization in Massachusetts and Maine have given the east coast a foothold, Pennsylvania is developing its own approach to marijuana reform.
Is Marijuana Legal in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania has legalized the medical use of marijuana with certain conditions and limitations.
When Did Marijuana Become Legal in Pennsylvania?
Act 16, titled the “Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act”, was passed by lawmakers in April 2016 and became law in May of that year. As of January 2018, much of the state has yet to see medical marijuana patients receive their medicine.
Where Are Dispensaries Located in Pennsylvania?
The Pennsylvania Department of Health released the dispensary and producer applications in mid-January 2017 and the regulatory licensing agency (The Department of Health) has approved only a few producers and sellers of medical marijuana across the state. Under current regulations, Pennsylvania medical marijuana dispensary licenses will be divided into six districts. Under phase 1 of the medical marijuana program, the following counties will be able to operate licensed medical marijuana dispensaries:
- Philadelphia - 3 dispensary licenses
- Montgomery - 2 dispensary licenses
- Chester - 1 dispensary license
- Bucks - 1 dispensary license
- Lancaster - 1 dispensary license
- Berks - 1 dispensary license
- Delaware - 1 dispensary license
- Lackawanna - 1 dispensary license
- Lehigh - 1 dispensary license
- Luzerne - 1 dispensary license
- Northampton - 1 dispensary license
- Blair - 1 dispensary license
- Cumberland - 1 dispensary license
- Dauphin - 1 dispensary license
- York - 1 dispensary license
- Centre - 1 dispensary license
- Lycoming - 1 dispensary license
- Allegheny - 2 dispensary licenses
- Butler - 1 dispensary license
- Washington - 1 dispensary license
- Westmoreland - 1 dispensary license
- Erie - 1 dispensary license
- McKean - 1 dispensary license
The state will only issue two producer licenses per region during Phase 1. It is important to note, Pennsylvania law allows each dispensary license to operate up to three dispensary locations, meaning there could be 81 dispensaries - Only six are currently operational as of August 2018.
Are they Medical, Recreational, or Both?
In January 2018, the first medical marijuana dispensary locations began to open across the Pennsylvania. As of August 2018, licensed dispensary locations will only serve medical cannabis to registered patients or their caregivers.
Recreational marijuana has not been made legal in Pennsylvania.
Who Can Become a Medical Marijuana Patient in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania residents, no matter the age, may register with the medical marijuana program. Individuals under the age of 18 are required to provide additional documentation and and must have a caregiver. These documents are known as the “Safe Harbor Letter”.
As of January 2018, Pennsylvania has approved seventeen conditions or diseases as being treatable by medical marijuana, including any terminal diagnosis.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Crohn's disease
- Brain-spinal cord damage accompanied by intractable spasticity or associated neuropathies including:
- Dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders
- Intractable seizures
- HIV / AIDS
- Huntington's disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBS)
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Neurodegenerative diseases, including:
- Parkinson's disease
- Opioid-use disorder wherein common treatments have been unsuccessful
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Severe chronic or intractable pain
- Sickle cell anemia
- Terminal illness
The Pennsylvania Department of Health can approve additional medical conditions as long as scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness can be produced.
How Can I Become a Medical Marijuana Patient in Pennsylvania?
An individual must first be diagnosed with one of the approved conditions and have a licensed medical professional (a physician in good standing with the state) recommend the use of marijuana to manage symptoms.
The patient must register then with the Department of Health, submit their physician verification, and pay the application and card issuance fee. The fee is $50.
Where Can Marijuana Be Consumed in Pennsylvania?
Smoking marijuana is not permitted under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act. Medical marijuana may only be dispensed and consumed in the following forms:
- In pill form
- As an oil
- In topical forms, such as gel, creams, and ointments
- A medically appropriate method of vaporizing or nebulizing marijuana
- This includes flower and dry herb cannabis
- As a tincture
- As a liquid drink
Additionally, medical marijuana may not be used in a way that may constitute negligence or professional misconduct. Marijuana may not be possessed or used at a correctional facility, though state correctional institutions may choose to allow employees with valid medical marijuana registrations to use medical marijuana as appropriate.
How Do I Get a Job in the Pennsylvania Marijuana Industry?
Thus far, it is clear that any person with a drug-related conviction is automatically denied.
Check out The Cannabis Jobs Network to see what marijuana jobs are available in Pennsylvania!
Is Drug Testing for Marijuana Legal in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania lawmakers want to protect patients from discrimination but still provide employers the ability to set the rules for acceptable practices. In an attempt to clarify, the state has said that businesses can prohibit medical marijuana patients from performing the following duties:
- Handling chemicals requiring a permit from the federal government or related agency
- Dealing with public utilities, including high-voltage electric assignments
- Any duty involving confined spaces or heights (Example: mining or flying a hot-air balloon)
- Any duty the employer has decided may result in injury to the employee or anyone else
A patient is deemed unable to safely do any of these tasks at a limit of 10 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood serum, which implies that a drug test is a reasonable method of testing on-the-job intoxication.
Is the Delivery of Marijuana Legal in Pennsylvania?
As of August 2018, regulations only specify transport between producer, laboratory, and dispensary locations. The law, however, does not permit a dispensary to directly transport cannabis to medical patients.
How Can I Pay for Marijuana in Pennsylvania Dispensaries?
Patients pay for medical marijuana with cash, primarily. Continued resistance from the DEA and Congress offer little motivation for banks to do business with marijuana companies.
If the federal government sees a bank is doing business with an federally-illegal industry (such as the cannabis industry), deposits may not be insured and the bank could be charged with money laundering.
Pennsylvania Marijuana Laws
In an effort to assess need and tailor access, lawmakers in Pennsylvania have chosen to issue licenses to dispensaries or producers in separate phases. In order to address patient need across the state, Pennsylvania has adopted a six-district system.
In the first phase, each of the six districts will be granted two producer licenses. Dispensary licenses will be issued based on current estimates of patient need, with a total of 27 being issued initially. No more than 150 dispensaries are allowable under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act.
- The Southeast Region includes: Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester, Bucks, Lancaster, Delaware and Berks county. It will be granted a total of 10 dispensary licenses.
- The Northeastern region includes: Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, and Northampton. This region is granted four licenses.
- The Southcentral Region includes: Blair, Cumberland, Dauphin, and York counties. This region will be similarly issued four licenses.
- The Northcentral Region includes: Centre and Lycoming counties. This region will be issued a total of two licenses.
- The Southwest Region includes: Allegheny, Butler, Washington, and Westmoreland. The area will receive five licenses in total.
- In the Northwest Region, Erie and McKean counties receive one dispensary license each.
Each license allows for up to three dispensary locations to be established. For instance, the southeast region may have only ten licenses, but this could translate to as many as 30 dispensaries.
Pennsylvania lawmakers were able to implement the medical cannabis law in February of 2018, allowing patients to access medicine early into 2018. Many individuals - whether dispensaries, producers, patients, and caregivers - still need to receive the necessary registration or license, yet heavy delays ensued.
Purchase and Possession Limits
Part of the registration process includes the certifying physician and patient developing an individual treatment plan. Dispensaries cannot sell more than 30-day supply to a patient - a volume based on the customized, individual treatment plan.
Dispensaries are required to keep track of individual patient sales throughout the month. Patients may not purchase more than a 30-day supply of medical marijuana.
Any person caught in possession of marijuana under 30 grams who is not a medical patient or caregiver may have to pay fines up to $500, accept misdemeanor criminal charges, and spend a month in jail. Any amount over 30 grams and the penalties rise to $5,000 in fines and as long as one year imprisonment.
Growing Marijuana at Home
Growing marijuana is only to be done by licensed producers. Any individual, including registered patients or their caregivers, caught growing marijuana at home may be subject to felony-level criminal charges with fines as high as $15,000 and up to five years of imprisonment.
Marijuana and Driving
Driving While Intoxicated
No person in Pennsylvania is authorized to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, including patients.
Anyone determined to be under the influence of marijuana while driving may be subject to fines as much as $5,000, 18 months of license suspension, 72-hours required jail time and as many as 150 hours of community service.
Driving While in Possession of Marijuana
Patients and caregivers are able to legally possess and transport up to a 30-day amount of marijuana. The product must not be taken across state lines, except in limited cases involving underage patients. The marijuana must be kept out of reach, in a secure space, and in the original container.
Marijuana Use by Minors
Minors under the age of 18 may participate in the Pennsylvania medical marijuana program, but there are several additional requirements. The patient must have at least one, but not more than two caregivers.
The caregiver (the parent or legal guardian of the minor) must register with the state and submit a background check. In the event the parent or legal guardian is not available to perform the duties required, a qualified individual - as defined by the Department of Health - may be able to register as the caregiver instead.
In addition, Pennsylvania has added a form that would allow minor patients and their caregivers to purchase and legally transport medical marijuana products from dispensary locations in neighboring states while Pennsylvania implements its own marijuana laws.
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