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Marijuana Legalization Unlikely For Pennsylvania

Updated on March 30, 2016

Should Pot Be Legal in PA?

The sudden shift in thinking about marijuana use, whether medical or recreational, almost seems like it is taking the country by storm. At least that’s the way that it looks if you pay attention to all of the news coverage that the states of Colorado and Washington State are getting – not to mention the recently released news that New York is considering making the same switch as well. With almost two dozen states taking action of one kind or another allowing medical marijuana to be sold legally, and the volume being turned up on the conversation about the wholesale legalization of the drug, many Pennsylvanians are wondering what will happen here, and whether the state will soon join in and consider making the switch.

Advocates of legalization argue that there are many benefits to doing so, but the truth is that the likelihood of Pennsylvania’s legislative body even giving an ounce (yes the pun is intended) of consideration to the topic falls somewhere between slim and none. Pennsylvania is a conservative state with a conservative Governor and a Republican chamber. The voter base, outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, has been compared to that of some of the reddest states in the nation, so the mere notion of pot becoming legal – even for medicinal purposes – is generally agreed to be a non-starter.

So with that understanding, if you are someone who is using cannabis to alleviate the symptoms of a medical condition, or even one who indulges in cannabis recreationally, it is probably a good idea to know what the law has to say about your crime. There are two different categories for marijuana offenses in the state: the first is the possession of the drug for personal use and the second is the possession with intent to deliver (or the manufacture of pot). One is serious and the other not as much, though getting caught with marijuana one way or another is to be avoided.

Is that Too High of A Fine?

If you’re charged with possession of a controlled substance (which could apply to anything from heroin to any legal drug without a prescription) you face a potential maximum of a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Second time offenders can face three years and $25,000. Not good.

On the other hand, you could be charged with the minor charge of possessing a “small amount of marijuana.” This is defined as just about an ounce – the amount that pot is usually sold in - and the maximum charge for that is a month in jail and a $500 fine. Better, but still not great, though it is true that the offense is rarely brought to trial. And by comparison it is less harsh than the maximum offenses for underaged drinking. Of course, if you’re also charged with having drug paraphernalia like a bong or a pipe in your possession, things get much more complicated, as you could face separate and more serious charges on this count.


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