pa medical marijuana

Is Weed Legal in Pennsylvania? Plus PA Weed Laws & Pennsylvania Marijuana Legalization Efforts in 2023

Is Marijuana Legal in Pennsylvania?

In short, no, weed is not legal in Pennsylvania for recreational use, but some forms of medicinal marijuana have been legalized and are available for purchase at medical marijuana dispensaries. In order to access these dispensaries, you must first have a medical marijuana card. Apply here today!

States like New York, Ohio and New Jersey have fully legalized recreational cannabis, their goal being to capitalize on the medical benefits and potential profits of a budding cannabis business. However, cannabis remains illegal federally so understanding Pennsylvania weed laws is important for state residents to be sure they’re not doing anything illegal.

The key to understanding cannabis law is to familiarize yourself with how cannabis can be legalized and to keep an eye on any potential changes from pending legislation. This post will cover the state of marijuana laws in Pennsylvania and explain how to get your medical card in Pennsylvania. While the United States has not formally legalized cannabis, states decide how they want to handle the herb in their own legislation. What is the state of Pennsylvania medical marijuana?

Before we cover the specific laws of Pennsylvania let’s review how cannabis can be legalized.

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How Do Cannabis Laws Work?

Marijuana legalization requires more than just the passage of a single law. The law is very nuanced and requires some laws be rewritten and an infrastructure built for an entirely new industry. Before marijuana can be sold, a system must be established to legally disperse it. For a deep dive check out this explanation of Cannabis law in the United States.

There are currently three forms of legalization at play in state law.

  • Decriminalization: This downgrades cannabis possession from a felony to a petty crime or ticketable offense.
  • Medical Marijuana: This allows doctors to prescribe cannabis as a medical prescription for various medical conditions. These can often be decided on the state level and there are various regulations for this system.
  • Recreational Cannabis: This legalized cannabis throughout the state allowing adults to legally purchase fixed amounts of cannabis from dispensaries.

It’s important to understand the law because some states can have various regulations like having smoking weed and edibles remain illegal or having fixed systems for obtaining prescriptions. We’re happy to help make the process seamless and simple.

pa medical marijuana

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Is Weed Officially Legal In PA?

Currently, cannabis remains illegal in Pennsylvania. If someone legally purchases cannabis in New York or New Jersey it still is a crime to possess, consume, grow, or sell marijuana in Pennsylvania.

Medical marijuana is legal for approved medical patients in Pennsylvania. They are legally allowed to obtain and use cannabis with proper patient certification.

Is Marijuana Legal In Pennsylvania as of 2023?

Marijuana is only legal medically in Pennsylvania. On April 17, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 3 legalizing the medical use of cannabis and establishing Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program.

If you’d like to get your medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania, start by clicking here.

The History of Pennsylvania Weed Laws

As far back as 2014, cities in Pennsylvania have independently decided to decriminalize possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis. Special consideration is often given to first time offenses and they only require a $25-$100 fee.

The cities in Pennsylvania that have decriminalized cannabis possession include:

  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Harrisburg
  • State College
  • York
  • Erie
  • Allentown
  • Bethlehem
  • Lancaster
  • Steelton
  • Delaware County
  • Carlisle
  • Doylestown

In January 2015, Constable Ed Quiggle, Jr. of Sunbury Pennsylvania signed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Reform Resolution. This made it so his department would not enforce or cooperate in the enforcement of any attempts to prohibit, penalize, or criminalize the possession, cultivation, or use of medical cannabis, hemp, cannabinoids, and other illegal or experimental drugs.

Former governor Tom Wolf was a big believer in legalization. He signed House Bill 163 into law October 24, 2018 which repealed the “Smoke a joint, lose your license” law. This law made possession of cannabis or any other illegal drug punishable with a mandatory six month driver’s license suspension.

In addition to the repeal of this law, Wolf made multiple attempts to convince Pennsylvanian lawmakers to legalize cannabis. He started a statewide listening tour in 2019, and even formally held multiple press conferences encouraging legalization.

More recently, House Bill 1080 is up for a vote in the 2023-2024 session and would legalize recreational cannabis and have it sold in state-run stores controlled by the Liquor Control Board.

Governor Josh Shapiro’s first budget proposal of 2023 included estimates for a recreational marijuana market beginning in January 2025. It projected about $16 million in tax revenue the first year, $64 million in 2026, $132 million in 2027 and more than $188 million in 2028. This estimate is based on a 20% tax on the wholesale price of marijuana products sold through a legal framework.

Given it’s the only state in its general area to still not have legalized recreational cannabis, it does seem like recreational cannabis in PA may be inevitable. Time will tell exactly when and how Pennsylvania will legalize cannabis and how long it will take to roll out.

Could Recreational Cannabis Get Legalized in Pennsylvania in 2024?

Again, given Pennsylvania’s proximity to states with legalized cannabis it is prudent to at least consider putting measures in place to regulate cannabis use if not you run the risk of dealing with a lot of police intervention over something that’s legal just outside state lines.

Not to mention, recreational cannabis provides states with the benefits of sales taxes on recreational cannabis and a general boon to the economy by introducing a new market.

Currently, there’s a bipartisan bill SB846. It’s coauthored by Republican State Senator Dan Laughlin and Democratic State Senator Sharif Street. According to a 2022 CBD Poll, two out of every three registered voters in Pennsylvania support legalization. However, given the nature of local law a Senate ballot measure must be passed to open the gates.

SB846 is fairly robust and includes adjustments to driving while impaired laws, establishes laboratory testing standards and regulations and the general governance of selling, disposing of, and marketing marijuana products.

Local residents can reach out to their local Senate members about supporting this bill being passed into law.

is weed legal in pennsylvania

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How To Get A Medical Marijuana Card in PA

Currently, one can legally obtain medical marijuana after seeing a doctor and having an official diagnosis for an approved condition. When diagnosed, a doctor can recommend medical marijuana and patients can apply for their medical marijuana card.

If you need help finding a doctor or want a simple way to get your medical card in PA click here.

The current list of approved medical conditions for medical marijuana in PA are:

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Autism
  • Cancer, Including Remission Therapy
  • Chronic Hepatitis C
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Damage To The Central Nervous System (Brain-Spinal Cord) With Objective Neurological Indication Of Intractable Spasticity, And Other Neuropathies
  • Dyskinetic And Spastic Movement Disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV / AIDS
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Intractable Seizures
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases
  • Neuropathies
  • Opioid Use Disorder
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Severe Chronic Or Intractable Pain
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Terminal Illness
  • Tourette Syndrome

What It’s Like Getting Your Medical Marijuana Card in Pennsylvania?

You may be wondering, how long does it take to get your medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania and how complicated the process is. Luckily, Green Health Docs can help facilitate the process and help eliminate a lot of confusion.

The steps are pretty simple:

  1. Schedule an appointment with a Green Health Docs provider. Doctors in your area are on hand to help facilitate the process. Telemedicine appointments are completely allowed and are available 6-7 days per week. Patients can often schedule their visit for the same week or even the same day.
  2. Patients are encouraged to register with the state as a medical patient before seeing your provider to help speed up the process. Patients will then immediately receive their patient ID # online after completing their registration. This will be necessary to process your application.
  3. Meet with your provider. If approved for a marijuana prescription, patients who already have their patient ID # can be activated in the state registry within 24 hours.
  4. Once a patient has been approved by their provider and their patient ID activated, they will be able to log into the state portal and officially request their ID Card.
    • Currently, it can take between 7-10 days for patients to receive their ID card via USPS.
  5. Once you have received your ID card in the mail, you can immediately start accessing dispensaries.

The total time frame from your appointment to being able to purchase cannabis can take anywhere from 8-14 business days from your appointment date. However, you can save time by requesting your patient ID # from the state before seeing your provider.

Consequences Of Getting A Medical Card In Pennsylvania

One major consequence of getting a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania is that you cannot legally possess a gun license. Since marijuana is still a federally controlled substance some states limit their gun laws.

Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Chapter 18, Section 6109(e)(1)(xiv) clarifies it is illegal for medical marijuana patients to “apply for, possess, or renew a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearm (LTC).” If you have a current open-carry license, you won’t be able to renew it as a medical marijuana patient. If you already have a gun, you have 90 days to surrender your weapon.

Luckily, if you are a medical cardholder, you are protected from discrimination from an employer under the Pennsylvania Marijuana Act (Act 16). This is not carte blanche to smoke at work but can protect you if you test positive for marijuana at work.

How Much Can You Buy At A Dispensary In PA?

Patients can purchase at most a 90-day supply of cannabis at a dispensary. If you purchase the full 90-day supply you cannot purchase additional cannabis in that period.

The only available products for purchase currently are:

  • Marijuana flower (for vaporizing not smoking)
  • Capsules
  • Vaporizers
  • Tinctures and liquids
  • Oils
  • Topicals

It is illegal to smoke weed flower in Pennsylvania; the law requires medical marijuana to be vaped.

Are Edibles Legal In Pennsylvania?

Edibles and smokable cannabis remain illegal. SB 538 which is up for a vote in 2023-2024 may reverse the illegality of edibles and incorporate them into the medical marijuana program. However, at present it remains illegal to buy and sell edibles.

Final Thoughts

Many states are quickly establishing robust medical and recreational cannabis programs to not just keep up with the times but capitalize on the cash cow that is cannabis. With local states offering fully legal cannabis, it’s surprising Pennsylvania has not fully legalized cannabis.

That being said, even with legal recreational cannabis it can be beneficial to have a medical marijuana card if you use cannabis for a medical condition. If you’d like to get your Pennsylvania medical marijuana card click here for help.


Dr. Anand DugarThis article has been reviewed by Dr. Anand Dugar, an anesthesiologist, pain medicine physician and the founder of Green Health Docs. Graduating from medical school in 2004 and residency in 2008, Dr. Dugar has been a licensed physician for almost 20 years and has been leading the push for medical cannabis nationwide.