Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana on April 17, 2016. This entails significant changes to both the prosecution and defense of marijuana possession and trafficking charges. The Medical Marijuana Program also creates new business opportunities for individuals seeking to cultivate or distribute medical marijuana with a state license. State agencies are currently developing the licensing standards and regulations that will govern Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana industry.
These changes will likely result in fewer marijuana-related prosecutions, but criminal charges are still a possibility if you fail to obey the letter of the law. Furthermore, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, and the Trump administration has indicated that it will increase enforcement of federal drug laws.
If you get charged with marijuana possession or trafficking, you will need the help of a skilled and experienced Pittsburgh marijuana lawyer. Call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today at (412) 281-2146 to find out how we can help you.
Legal Use of Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has the responsibility of putting the Medical Marijuana Program into effect. The process of developing the rules and regulations for the possession, cultivation, and distribution of medical marijuana is ongoing, with the full implementation of the program expected to occur in late 2017 or early 2018.
Once the program is implemented, Pennsylvania residents with certain serious medical conditions may use medical marijuana on the recommendation of a Pennsylvania-licensed physician. The medical conditions that may qualify you for the medical marijuana program include:
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
- Crohn’s Disease
- Serious spinal cord damage
- HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) or AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
- Huntington’s Disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Intractable Seizures
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder)
- Severe chronic pain not treatable by traditional methods
- Sickle Cell Anemia
The process for becoming a medical marijuana patient in Pennsylvania requires that you:
- Register with the Department of Health
- Obtain a certificate from a licensed physician stating that you suffer from one of the medical conditions listed above
- Apply and pay the fee for a medical marijuana ID card
Once you get your ID card, you will be able to purchase and use medical marijuana obtained from a licensed Pennsylvania dispensary or caregiver. Depending on your health and personal preferences, you might want to use different types of medical marijuana or ingestion methods. The Medical Marijuana Program legalizes the following forms of medical marijuana:
- Topical gels, creams, or ointments
- A form that can be vaporized or nebulized
Notably, the legal forms of medical marijuana specifically exclude dried buds and leaves. This means that it will not be possible to smoke marijuana in the traditional manner as a legal medical user in Pennsylvania.
When Will Dispensaries Open?
The Pennsylvania Department of Health estimates that it will be able to begin receiving applications for growing, processing, and dispensary permits in the first quarter of 2017. It remains to be seen how long the licensing process will take. Additionally, dispensaries and processors will need time to start their businesses once they obtain their licenses. And of course, it will take licensed growers several weeks to cultivate their first plants. Thus, it is likely that medical marijuana won’t be available in Pennsylvania until at least the latter half of 2017.
The Medical Marijuana Program authorizes the Department of Health to license up to 50 dispensaries to operate in Pennsylvania. A licensed dispensary may operate up to three separate locations. Each potential dispensary must meet the following requirements:
- Submit an application to the Department of Health with a detailed description of its activities and business model
- Pass federal and state criminal background check
- Prove the ability to maintain security and prevent the marijuana from being diverted into the black market
- Provide a diversity plan
- Complete the training course
- Pay a non-refundable $5,000 application fee, and a license fee of $30,000, which is refundable if the application is not granted
- Show proof of $150,000 in capital
The Medical Marijuana Program allows for 25 growers and/or processors to operate in Pennsylvania. The requirements for obtaining a growing or processing license are the same as for dispensary licenses, with the following additions:
- Statement of good moral character
- The non-refundable application fee is $10,000, and the refundable license fee is $200,000
- Proof of $2 million in capital, $500,000 of which must be on deposit in a financial institution
A Pittsburgh Medical Marijuana Lawyer Can Help – Call Today
Pennsylvania has joined the national movement towards legalizing marijuana. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. If you get caught, you just pay a fine as opposed to defending against a criminal charge. Soon, Pennsylvanians with serious medical conditions will be able to possess and use authorized forms of medical marijuana. Nonetheless, a criminal prosecution is still possible any time you possess, grow, or distribute marijuana outside of these narrow legal exceptions.
When you’re facing marijuana charges, you need a fast acting and dedicated legal advocate by your side. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we are dedicated to giving our clients one-on-one attention and getting them the best case outcomes possible. If you’ve been charged with the possession or trafficking of marijuana – whether in state of federal court – you can count on us to give your case a thorough and effective defense.
Call us today at (412) 281-2146 for a free and confidential case consultation.