Can I Still be Charged with a Marijuana Crime if Recreational Marijuana is Legal in Pennsylvania?
Recreational marijuana has been decriminalized in several districts within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. While technically illegal, the possession of small amounts of cannabis in some areas is not pursued criminally. If you are caught, you can expect a small fine. But there will be no drug offense entered onto your criminal record, and no possibility of jail time.
Yet, you still face the risk of getting charged with a marijuana crime if you are not careful. If you get caught with a large amount of cannabis, or if you transport cannabis to a jurisdiction where it is not legal or decriminalized, you could face criminal charges. And of course, marijuana remains a schedule I illegal substance under federal law, so even if marijuana gets legalized in Pennsylvania, you could still face federal drug charges. Federal marijuana charges usually occur only in cases involving large amounts of cannabis, or where a federal law enforcement officer arrests a suspect.
Where is Recreational Cannabis Decriminalized in Pennsylvania?
More and more municipalities are decriminalizing marijuana on their own because statewide legalization is not yet on the horizon. Today, it is no longer a crime to possess small amounts of cannabis in the following municipalities:
Generally, you will only face a small fine if you possess no more than 30 grams of marijuana flowers, or less than 8 grams of hash, oil, or other cannabis concentrates. City ordinances settle on these amounts because it follows the contours of state law, under which the possession of less than 30 grams is a low-level misdemeanor.
How Are Marijuana Crimes Punished at the State Level?
If you are caught outside of the municipalities mentioned above, or if you engage in activities not authorized by your local decriminalization notice, the prosecutor will charge you under state law, which provides the following penalties for cannabis crimes:
- Possession–This is a misdemeanor punishable by one month in jail and/or $500 in fines if you have less than 30 grams of buds or 8 grams of hash. Possession of larger amounts is still a misdemeanor, but it’s punishable by six to 12 months in jail and/or $5,000 in fines. If the state legislature decides to legalize recreational cannabis, they will probably start by abolishing or reducing these penalties.
- Distribution–Distribution of less than 30 grams is punishable by the same penalties as possession, as long as there is no evidence you were selling. The sale of more than 30 grams of cannabis; however, is punishable as a felony carrying a possible five-year prison sentence and $15,000 in fines. Even if Pennsylvania legalizes recreational marijuana, these laws are likely to remain on the books–as in most states that have legalized recreational marijuana, only licensed retailers will be authorized to sell cannabis.
- Cultivation–This is always a felony, regardless of your intent to sell the plants or not. The penalties are the same as for distribution of large amounts of cannabis: between two and a half and five years behind bars and up to $15,000 in fines. If Pennsylvania follows the lead of other states that have legalized recreational cannabis, it will likely be legal to grow a few plants on your private property.
The consequences for possessing, distributing, or cultivating cannabis are harsh. Even if you live in a city that has decriminalized cannabis, there are situations in which you could face these penalties. If you are a cannabis user, you need to make sure that you are always in compliance with your local decriminalization ordinance.
Should you get charged with a marijuana crime, a Pennsylvania drug lawyer can help. Act now and call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys at (412) 281-2146 for a free and confidential consultation about your case.