Many states are legalizing certain medical and recreational uses of marijuana. However, while there are news stories about decriminalizing marijuana, this is far from being a sweeping trend. For the most part, marijuana remains illegal throughout Pennsylvania and the country. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, our criminal defense attorneys understand this can lead to confusion and misunderstandings. If you thought you could possess marijuana when you were not allowed to, you may now be facing misdemeanor or felony charges.
When this happens, call a Pittsburgh marijuana attorney from Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146 to hear more about your legal options through a free case consultation.
Federal Marijuana Law
Under federal law, marijuana and its derivative products that include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are illegal. They continue to be recognized as a Schedule I controlled substance, which means the government labels marijuana as a drug with a high potential for addiction and abuse and no currently accepted medical purpose.
You can be arrested by federal authorities and charged with a federal crime for marijuana possession, use, cultivation, trafficking, and any other activities related to the drug – even if you are abiding by state law. If you are currently facing federal marijuana charges, do not hesitate to contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC to speak with a marijuana attorney. Our legal team has experience in handling federal criminal cases.
Pennsylvania Marijuana Law
Federal law contradicts many state laws, including Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program. As of 2016, certain medical marijuana is lawful. Individuals may be able to maintain medical marijuana in pill, oil, topical, liquid, tincture, or dry leaf form to treat serious medical conditions, including cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, HIV, MS, Parkinson’s, PTSD, chronic pain, and many others.
However, you cannot automatically use marijuana for medicinal purposes. You must have a documented serious medical condition and obtain a prescription from a licensed physician to be able to purchase marijuana from a licensed medical marijuana provider. If you do not adhere to these steps, you face charges for a marijuana crime.
Additionally, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under Pennsylvania’s Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act. Recreational use of marijuana is illegal throughout the state. If the police are investigating you for a marijuana offense or you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony, call a marijuana lawyer as soon as possible.
Pennsylvania Marijuana Crimes
Many actions related to marijuana are unlawful based on the Pennsylvania Code. If you are found with marijuana on your person, in your vehicle, home, or office, then you may face criminal charges. This is even more likely if you have large quantities of marijuana plants or products under your control.
Common marijuana offenses include:
- Possession of Marijuana– Based on 35 Pa. Code §780-113(a)(31), if the police find you possess less than 30 grams of marijuana that is not intended for sale, then you can be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. If the police find you possess more than 30 grams, you face up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. You can also have your driver’s license suspended for up to two years depending on your criminal history. A drug possession crime can also make you ineligible for federal student loans.
- Use and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia– If you are found to have drug paraphernalia on your person, such as any device used to propagate, harvest, manufacture, process, ingest, or inhale a controlled substance then you will be charged with a crime under 35 Pa. Code §780-113(a)(32). This includes items like rolling papers, baggies, scales, and bongs or pipes. This misdemeanor offense could lead to up to one year in prison and a thousands of dollars in fines.
- Cultivation of Marijuana– If there is evidence you were growing one or more marijuana plants, then you can be charged with a crime for cultivating marijuana – whether or not you intended for it to be medicinal or recreational marijuana, or for sale or personal use. For two to 10 pounds of marijuana, or up to 21 plants, you face 2 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. For 10 to 50 pounds, or up to 51 plants, you face up to three years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
- Distribution of Marijuana– It is unlawful to sell or provide marijuana to other individuals within the state unless you have a license to sell medical marijuana to appropriate patients, according to 35 Pa. Code §780-113(a)(1). If there is evidence you gave, sold, or in any other way distributed marijuana, you can be charged with a crime based on the weight of the cannabis involved. For 30 grams or less, you could be sentenced to up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. For distribution of 31 to 1,000 pounds of marijuana, you may have to three years in prison and pay a fine of up to $25,000. For a conviction of distributing more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana, you will have a felony on your record, and you face up to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.
- Marijuana Trafficking– You can be charged with marijuana trafficking under 18 Pa. Code §7508 if there is evidence you moved the drug from one place to another, even if you did not cultivate the marijuana or intend to sell it. For trafficking between two and 10 pounds, or fewer than 21 live plants, you can be imprisoned for at least one year and fined up to $5,000. For trafficking between 10 and 50 pounds, or between 21 and 51 live plants, you could be imprisoned for up to three years and face fines up to $15,000. For trafficking at least 50 pounds or at least 51 live plants, you can be imprisoned for five years and a fined $50,000.
Pittsburgh Marijuana Law
Recreational marijuana is illegal throughout most of the state. However, Pittsburgh enacted an ordinance decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and hashish. As an adult who possesses less than 30 grams of marijuana or eight grams of hash, your only punishment will be a seizure of the drugs and a $25 fine. If you are found with those amounts or less and smoking the substance at the time, you must pay a $100 fine.
Collateral Consequences of a Drug Conviction
If you are convicted of a marijuana crime, you can expect to face a number of statutory penalties. However, the real punishment may occur in the years to come, when you face a great deal of stigma of having a drug conviction on your record.
Collateral consequences of a drug conviction include but are not limited to:
- Challenges getting into college
- Difficulty obtaining financial aid
- Loss of professional licenses
- Difficulty obtaining/maintaining employment
- Difficulty renting an apartment or house
- Immigration issues
- Child custody and visitation issues
- Loss of your voting rights for a period of time
- Loss of your gun ownership rights for a period of time
Defenses for Marijuana Crimes
If you have been charged with a marijuana offense, call a marijuana attorney at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC right away. Our first strategy will be to try and have the charges dropped or reduced. This is particularly important if we can have a felony lowered to a misdemeanor and greatly reduce the potential penalties you would suffer upon conviction.
If the prosecution decides to move forward with charges, we will review your various options, including pleading guilty, negotiating a plea bargain, seeking entrance into a diversion program, and fighting to exonerate you at trial.
If we move forward with trial, there are a number of defenses we may be able to build and present to the judge and jury, including challenging:
- The constitutionality of your initial stop and/or arrest
- Whether you were subject to an unlawful search or seizure
- Whether evidence against you was unlawfully obtained
- Whether you were actually in possession of drugs
- Prosecution’s lack of sufficient evidence
- The actual weight of the drugs
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Let Our Pittsburgh Marijuana Lawyers Defend You
When you are facing a potential conviction for a marijuana crime, you may not be sure what to do or who to go to for help. Our knowledgeable, experienced, and proven marijuana attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC are here for you. We have handled a wide-range of marijuana cases, from minor possession to significant trafficking accusations, and we have a proven track record of success.