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Medical marijuana became legal in Pennsylvania on April 17th, 2016, when Governor Wolf signed the Medical Marijuana Act (S.B. 3), but it took another two years before dispensaries could begin serving patients. The laws in PA regarding medical marijuana purchase and consumption are rather complicated, so many residents are concerned about understanding their rights and ensuring they are adhering to these laws to avoid any potential legal issues. Consult the resources below for answers to your questions about medical marijuana in PA.
Obtaining a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania requires becoming part of the state’s medical marijuana program, which involves the following steps:
To be eligible for registration, you must have a Pennsylvania state driver’s license or an official state ID card from the PA Department of Transportation. You will enter your legal name, current valid mailing address, email address, and contact information. After the system validates your information, you create a username and password and can access your patient portal with your patient ID number. You will receive an email confirmation that your registration is successful and prompt you to complete the next step.
A patient certification states that you have received a formal diagnosis for your qualifying medical condition and that the physician believes medical marijuana would benefit you. All physicians that recommend medical marijuana for patients are required to register with the PA Department of Health, complete Continuing Medical Education training offered by an approved provider and undergo a final review before they can issue patient certifications for medical marijuana. They utilize the Medical Marijuana Registry and submit patient certifications directly into the online system. After you obtain a patient certification in the Medical Marijuana Registry system, you will receive an email confirmation that directs you to complete your application and pay for your card.
If you are interested in becoming a medical marijuana patient in PA, or you already have your card, you likely have questions about the laws and what you can do to make sure you are in compliance while purchasing and consuming medical marijuana products. In the resource below, we have compiled the most commonly asked questions we receive about medical marijuana in PA and provided their answers.
Marijuana is legal for medical use in Pennsylvania if you have a qualifying condition and obtain patient certification from an approved physician, but recreational marijuana is still illegal in the state. Without a valid medical marijuana card, you can be arrested and prosecuted for misdemeanor possession charges and incur penalties, such as fines, driver’s license suspension, and up to one year imprisonment depending on the amount in your possession. However, several cities have decriminalized possession of recreational marijuana and have begun reducing penalties for this offense, including Bethlehem, Erie, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, State College, Steelton, and York.
Yes, the Department of Health of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania regulates the state’s medical marijuana program.
The Department of Health recently praised the PA medical marijuana program as one of the most successful in the country. As of May 2021, there are more than 582,000 patients and caregivers registered with the state’s program, over 1,560 physicians have been approved to issue patient certifications, and more than 34 million products have been sold to patients. So far, the medical marijuana program has seen over $2.8 billion in sales since its creation, and projected sales are set to reach $1.1 million by 2024.
Because of how successful the program has been for helping patients and strengthening PA’s economy, members of the Department of Health board are considering new ways to make the system more efficient and sustainable. Lieutenant Governor Fetterman conducted a state-wide listening tour during 2019 in which he visited every one of the commonwealth’s 67 counties to discover how constituents feel about marijuana legalization. He found that 65-70% of residents approve of marijuana legalization for adult use and there is nearly unanimous support for decriminalizing and expunging small, non-violent cannabis offenses. His findings caused Governor Wolf to express his support for recreational marijuana legalization in PA.
The state legislature has introduced several bills in 2019 and 2020 aimed at expanding the law to include recreational marijuana:
Only patients that experience one of the following medical conditions qualifies to obtain a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania:
Yes, you must be 18 years of age or older to obtain a medical marijuana card in PA. However, it is possible for patients under the age of 18 who experience a qualifying medical condition to obtain medical marijuana through a certified caregiver. A caregiver is either a parent, legal guardian, an individual designated by a parent or legal guardian, or an individual approved by the Department of Health if there is no parent or legal guardian appropriate or available. To become certified, they must pass a criminal background check, apply for a medical marijuana card, and register with the Medical Marijuana Registry.
It costs $50 to obtain a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania.
It takes approximately 21 days to receive a medical marijuana card after submitting your payment online.
The physician who issues the patient certification will specify how long the card is valid before it expires, but typically you are expected to renew your card after one year and pay an annual card renewal fee of $50. 60 days before your certification and ID card expire, you will receive an email prompting you to obtain a new patient certification and renew your card. 30 days before your annual renewal fee is due, you will receive an email instructing you to confirm your patient information on the Medical Marijuana Registry and submit a payment of $50 to the Department of Health. You will then be mailed a new card that features an issue date one day after your previous card expires.
Consult the Department of Health’s listing of medical marijuana approved practitioners here. You can also view the most updated information by accessing your patient profile on the Medical Marijuana Registry.
Review the list of PA medical marijuana dispensaries here.
Pennsylvania medical marijuana law prohibits smoking cannabis flower, but patients can consume cannabis pills, oils, tinctures, liquids, topicals, and cannabis flower via vaporization.
Yes, cannabis product testing is performed on medical marijuana products in PA. For more information, read the Department of Health’s Guidance for Quality Testing and Sampling by Approved Laboratories.
Medical marijuana dispensaries in PA are permitted to sell patients a 30-day supply of products. Possessing more than a 30-day supply is considered a crime and can lead to criminal penalties.
No, home cultivation is illegal and only licensed commercial cultivators may grow medical marijuana in PA.
You can consume medical marijuana in your home and other private residences. You may also be able to consume cannabis at your workplace if your employer permits it and you refrain from consumption while performing dangerous activities. It is illegal to consume cannabis in public or to possess cannabis on school grounds or bus stops.
No, Pennsylvania does not accept medical marijuana cards from other states, and you cannot purchase medical marijuana products in a PA dispensary with an out-of-state card.
In most cases, a felony conviction on your criminal record will not prevent you from obtaining a medical marijuana card. However, if the felony involved drug manufacturing, distribution, or a violent crime involving cannabis, you may not qualify for a medical marijuana card.
No, your patient certification and medical marijuana card may only be obtained through an approved physician, meaning they are considered personal medical information and protected under the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).
No, your employer cannot legally terminate your position, refuse to hire you, or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against you for participating in the PA medical marijuana program or failing a drug screening due to the presence of medical marijuana in your system. However, they can prohibit you from performing certain duties while under the influence of marijuana, such as working at heights or in confined spaces, handling chemicals that require a government permit, working with high-voltage electricity or other public utilities, or completing tasks that your employer considers “life-threatening” to you or other employees, or would pose a risk to public health or safety.
No, federal law prohibits you from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition and from applying for, possessing, or renewing a license to carry a firearm if you participate in the state’s medical marijuana program.
Yes, if you are driving, operating your vehicle, or otherwise in physical control of your vehicle with more than 1 ng/mL of THC in your blood, you can be charged with a DUI.