Marijuana Remains Illegal in Pennsylvania

By Dave Mueller, Criminal Defense Attorney

As more and more states and local jurisdictions begin to legalize or decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, it is important to point out that in Pennsylvania it is still illegal to possess even the smallest amount of marijuana, even with a valid out-of-state prescription for medical marijuana. Though the attitude toward marijuana has relaxed nationally, the aggressive enforcement of marijuana laws by police in Pennsylvania remains steady. In Pennsylvania, the possession of even a small amount of marijuana can carry up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, and a mandatory driver’s license suspension. Possession of drug paraphernalia (which can include pipes and even the bag that a small amount of marijuana is packaged in) carries up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Our neighboring states of Maryland, New York and Ohio have moved toward decriminalizing marijuana, as has the District of Columbia. In those places, this could mean no jail time or criminal record for first-time possession of a small amount for personal consumption. In some cases, those states treat first-time marijuana possession similar to a minor traffic violation. This is not so in Pennsylvania.

It is important to note that if you legally use marijuana in another state, you may still face charges if you return to Pennsylvania and drive a motor vehicle even days after your last use. Marijuana “metabolites” may stay in your system for days after use, and they are detectable in the standard blood tests that are used in many counties to detect driving under the influence. Under Pennsylvania law, if these metabolites are detected, they can be used to support a charge of driving under the influence even if you were not actually impaired when you drove. It is not a defense if the marijuana was legally consumed in another state. Where and when the marijuana was consumed is irrelevant if the chemical traces are found in your bloodstream by a properly administered blood test.

If you find yourself facing any criminal charge related to the use, possession, or being under the influence of marijuana—or any criminal charge due to the use or possession of controlled substances—your future is at stake and you need legal representation immediately. Call our 24-hour telephone line at (800) 615-0115 and one of our attorneys will be back in touch with you shortly.

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