Is Medical-Only Weed Legal in Pennsylvania?

September 4, 2021
Pennsylvania Cannabis Legality
Pennsylvania Cannabis Legality

Is Marijuana Legal in the State of Pennsylvania?

The Keystone State maintains its laws against recreational cannabis use, which means that it is still illegal to purchase or possess weed/marijuana unless you are part of the state’s medical marijuana program.  Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program gives certain medical patients access to cannabis by allowing them to purchase from a state-licensed dispensary that can be found in places such as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Erie, etc.

History of Weed Laws

In April of 2016, The Medical Marijuana Act (Act 16) was passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, which effectively legalized sales, possession, and consumption of medical cannabis.  The Pennsylvania Department of Health was given the role of managing and regulating the program.  The program permits medical patients with certain qualifying conditions to receive a medical card issued by the DOH, which is valid at any state-licensed marijuana dispensary.

Where Can a Person Legally Purchase Weed in Pennsylvania?

Patients can purchase cannabis from state-licensed dispensaries once they receive their medical marijuana card.  Caregivers can also make purchases on behalf of the patient if the patient is unable to do so themselves.  It remains illegal for non-authorized individuals, such as recreational users, to purchase marijuana in the state.

The state does not permit delivery, which means that dispensaries cannot legally deliver cannabis to the home of a patient.  Patients can find a list of dispensaries easily online in order to choose one that is accessible based on where they live.

Consumers are not subject to any excise tax on medical cannabis purchases, although the law requires growers/processors to pay a 5% excise tax on the gross receipts from the sale of medical marijuana to the dispensary. [Source]

Where Can Cannabis Legally Be Used?

There is no law prohibiting cannabis use in public.  However, common sense would imply that it should be used at home or on another private property with permission from the owner.  It is illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis, which can result in DUI charges.

Possession Laws

The law requires that medical patients and their caregivers can only possess up to a 30-day supply of cannabis between them.  Some major cities in Pennsylvania have decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis, with varying terms and conditions.

Can Residents Grow Their Own?

Pennsylvania strictly prohibits the cultivation of cannabis, even if the cultivator is a state-authorized medical patient or caregiver.  Therefore, growing your own marijuana can lead to criminal charges.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program is managed by the state’s Department of Health, who oversees the entire process of applying and receiving a medical card.  Patients and designated caregivers can use the card to purchase cannabis form a state-authorized dispensary.  To be approved, a patient must be diagnosed with a qualifying condition as determined by the state.

Qualifying Conditions:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Autism
  • Cancer, including remission therapy
  • Chronic or intractable pain
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Damage to the brain or spinal cord
  • Dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Intractable seizures
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Neuropathy
  • Opioid addiction
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Spastic movement disorders
  • Terminal illness
  • Tourette syndrome

Patient Qualifications:

For a patient to be eligible for the state’s Medical Marijuana Program, they must have received a diagnosis of at least one of the above qualifying conditions from a licensed physician. 

How to Register for Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania

Before a patient can receive a certification from a physician, they must register with the MMP.  Once they receive a certification from their physician, they can fill out the application form provided by the MMP website.  Then, they must pay a $50 application fee and wait for their card to arrive so that they can begin making marijuana purchases.  They must also provide their state-issued ID to prove their residency.

Qualifying as a Caregiver

A caregiver can be requested on a patient’s behalf if they are unable to retrieve or administer cannabis due to the nature of their medical condition, capacity, or age.  Patients may request up to 2 caregivers, and caregivers may provide care for up to 5 patients at a time.  A caregiver must be at least 21 years old.

Registering as a Caregiver

A caregiver must register for the state’s medical marijuana program by filling out an application form and providing a state-issued ID to prove their residency.  They must submit to a background check and pay a $50 application fee. 

Safe Harbor

The Pennsylvania Safe Harbor Letter conveys their approval for caregivers to possess and administer medical marijuana.  It is available to parents, legal guardians, caregivers, and spouses of a minor younger than 18 who suffers from one of the medical conditions defined in the Medical Marijuana Act.

Reciprocity Laws

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program is only accessible to in-state residents, which means that out-of-state visitors cannot purchase cannabis from a Pennsylvania dispensary, even if they are authorized to purchase medical marijuana by their own state.

Lab-Testing

All cannabis products in Pennsylvania must undergo a third-party testing process by a state-approved lab.  This process tests the products for their cannabinoid profiles and potency, while also ensuring that the products are free of toxins, contaminants and impurities that could interfere with safety.