Cannabis in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State Capitol lit in green to celebrate passage of medical cannabis legislation by the House of Representatives in March 2016
Poster for 1977 Pittsburgh Smoke-In

Cannabis in Pennsylvania is illegal for recreational use, but possession of small amounts is decriminalized in several of the state's largest cities. Medical use was legalized in 2016 through a bill enacted by the state legislature.

Medical use legalized (2016)[edit]

On April 17, 2016, Gov. Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 3 to legalize the medical use of cannabis.[1] The bill allowed the use of cannabis with a physician's approval for treatment of 17 qualifying conditions listed in the bill.[2] It also set up a state-licensed system for the distribution of cannabis to patients, with the requirement (later eliminated in 2018)[3] that only non-smokable forms be sold.[4] A 5% tax rate was imposed on sales between growers, processors, and dispensaries.[5] No allowance for patient home cultivation was made.[6]

Senate Bill 3 passed the House by a 149-46 vote and the Senate 42–7.[6] Its primary sponsor was Republican Sen. Mike Folmer,[7] who later admitted to using cannabis during his time in office (prior to the bill's passage) in order to alleviate the effects of chemotherapy treatment.[8] Upon its enactment, Pennsylvania became the 24th state to legalize cannabis for medical use.[1]

Statewide listening tour (2019)[edit]

In December 2018, during a Q&A session with constituents on Twitter, Gov. Wolf tweeted: "I think it is time for Pennsylvania to take a serious and honest look at [legalizing] recreational marijuana."[9] One month later, Wolf announced a statewide tour by Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman to gather public input on the idea.[10] Said Wolf: "We could choose to ignore what's going on in the world and just pretend that nothing has happened, nothing has changed, or we can actually open our eyes and ears and say, 'let's go out and ask—let's find out.'"[11] The 3-month, 67-county tour kicked off February 11 in Harrisburg.[12]

At the halfway point of the listening tour, there was near-unanimous support for decriminalization, a combined average of 70 percent support for legalization from counties visited to date, and virtually unanimous support for the established medical marijuana program in Pennsylvania.[13]

Municipal reforms[edit]

The cities in the below table have revised their municipal ordinances to lessen penalties for cannabis offenses. Police still retain the ability to charge individuals under state law, however. In Allentown and part of Bethlehem, police officials have said they will enforce state law only per the directive of Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin.[14][15][16]

City Date Policy reform
Philadelphia September 2014 City council voted 13–3 to decriminalize up to 30 grams, punishable by a $25 fine.[17]
Pittsburgh December 2015 City council voted 7–2 to decriminalize up to 30 grams, punishable by a $25 fine.[18]
Harrisburg July 2016 City council voted unanimously to decriminalize small amounts, punishable by a $75 fine.[19]
State College August 2016 City council voted 5–2 to decriminalize up to 30 grams, punishable by a $250 fine.[20]
York July 2017 City council voted 4–1 to decriminalize up to 30 grams, punishable by a $100 fine.[21]
Erie January 2018 City council voted unanimously to decriminalize up to 30 grams, punishable by a $25 fine.[22]
Allentown May 2018 City council voted 4–3 to decriminalize up to 30 grams, punishable by a $25 fine for a first offense.[23]
Bethlehem June 2018 City council voted 6–0 to decriminalize up to 30 grams, punishable by a $25 fine for a first offense.[16]
Lancaster September 2018 City council voted 6–1 to decriminalize small amounts, punishable by a $25 fine for a first offense.[24]

On January 20, 2015, Constable Ed Quiggle, Jr. of Sunbury signed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Reform Resolution, making it official policy for the Office of Constable for the 9th Ward of the City to not enforce or cooperate in the enforcement of any acts which prohibit, penalize, or criminalize the possession, cultivation, or use of medical cannabis, hemp, cannabinoids, and other illegal or experimental drugs, becoming the first law enforcement agency in Pennsylvania, and perhaps the first in the United States, to enact such a policy.[25][26][27]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Murphy, Jan (April 17, 2016). "It's official: Medical marijuana now legal in Pennsylvania". pennlive.com. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  2. ^ Esack, Steve (April 13, 2016). "Pennsylvania lawmakers OK medical marijuana". The Morning Call. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  3. ^ Wenner, David (August 1, 2018). "Pa. begins dry leaf medical marijuana sales, reminds users not to smoke it". pennlive.com. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  4. ^ Langley, Karen (April 18, 2016). "Medical marijuana legalized in Pennsylvania". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  5. ^ Peterson, Amanda (April 18, 2016). "Highlights of Pennsylvania's medical marijuana legislation". WHTM. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  6. ^ a b Stauffer, Heather (April 17, 2016). "Medical marijuana in Pennsylvania: Everything you want to know, but are afraid to ask". LNP. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  7. ^ Craig, Daniel (April 17, 2016). "Wolf signs medical marijuana bill into law". PhillyVoice. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  8. ^ Mahon, Ed (December 14, 2016). "Pa. senator says he used medical marijuana despite ban". York Daily Record. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  9. ^ Tanenbaum, Michael (December 20, 2018). "Gov. Wolf wants Pennsylvania to take 'serious and honest' look at recreational marijuana". PhillyVoice. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  10. ^ Murphy, Jan (January 24, 2019). "Lt. Gov. John Fetterman's first official assignment: Take Pa. residents' pulse on legalizing pot". pennlive.com. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  11. ^ Jaeger, Kyle (January 24, 2019). "Pennsylvania Governor Announces Statewide Marijuana Legalization Listening Tour". Marijuana Moment. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  12. ^ Thompson, Charles (February 11, 2019). "Marijuana meetings start in Harrisburg with strong showing of support for legal pot". pennlive.com. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  13. ^ Fetterman, John (April 16, 2019). "John Fetterman: What I've learned on my recreational marijuana listening tour". pghcitypaper.com. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  14. ^ Opilo, Emily (May 25, 2018). "Allentown mayor signs marijuana decriminalization law, but city police won't enforce". The Morning Call. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  15. ^ Opilo, Emily (May 30, 2018). "Q&A: Why Allentown's marijuana decriminalization law isn't being enforced". The Morning Call. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  16. ^ a b Bresswein, Kurt (June 27, 2018). "Busted for weed in Bethlehem? Charge will depend on where". lehighvalleylive.com. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  17. ^ Cherney, Max (September 14, 2014). "Philadelphia Is Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession". Vice News. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  18. ^ Kearney, Laila (December 21, 2015). "Pittsburgh to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana". Reuters. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  19. ^ Vendel, Christine (July 6, 2016). "It's official: Harrisburg council reduces penalties for pot possession". pennlive.com. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  20. ^ Rushton, Geoff (August 1, 2016). "Marijuana Possession No Longer a Misdemeanor in State College". statecollege.com. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  21. ^ Addy, Jason (July 18, 2017). "York City Council passes marijuana decriminalization". The York Dispatch. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  22. ^ Flowers, Kevin (January 18, 2018). "Erie City Council OK's reduced marijuana possession penalties". goerie.com. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  23. ^ Bresswein, Kurt (May 25, 2018). "Mayor signs Allentown law decriminalizing marijuana". lehighvalleylive.com. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  24. ^ Paul, Ashley (September 25, 2018). "Lancaster City votes to decriminalize marijuana". WPMT. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  25. ^ "Constable's new policy designed to protect medical marijuana patients and privacy rights". Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Independent Gazette. January 22, 2015. Retrieved December 22, 2015.
  26. ^ "A Sunbury constable is fighting pot laws". WKOK. January 22, 2015. Archived from the original on September 11, 2015. Retrieved December 22, 2015.
  27. ^ "Resolution 2015-1 the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Reform Resolution". Office of Constable for the 9th Ward of the City of Sunbury, PA. January 20, 2015. Retrieved December 22, 2015.