What are the Effects of Marijuana Decriminalization in Philadelphia?
In 2014, Philadelphia joined many other cities in a major step toward criminal justice reform: decriminalizing marijuana. As an offense that once involved 30 days in jail & a $500 fine, the amendment has had a big impact on many Pennsylvania residents, now warranting only a citation and small fine of $25. So can you still get arrested on possession charges? Here’s what you need to know about the effects of marijuana decriminalization in Philadelphia.
The Process of Decriminalization
It’s important to note that “decriminalization” does not mean a crime is now legal. The term instead defines a crime once punishable by incarceration as now a civil offense, punishable by citations, fines, and/or community service.
With a population of over 1.5 million, Philly became the largest city in the country to remove criminal charges for marijuana possession of up to 30 grams. As a result, arrests have dropped and other cities across PA have started to follow our lead. Some of these cities include:
- Allentown: ≤30 grams, $25 fine
- Harrisburg: ≤30 grams, $75 – $150 fine
- Lancaster: ≤1 ounce, $25 – $75 fine
- Pittsburgh: ≤30 grams, $25 fine
- York: ≤30 grams, $100 fine
The New Marijuana Law & Penalties in Philadelphia
In April of 2016, Governor Wolfthe signed into law the use of marijuana for medical purposes as legal. As expected, it took the PA Department of Health between 18-24 months to get the program up and running successfully, and in early 2018, medical marijuana became available at approved dispensaries for certain approved medical conditions, some of which include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Crohn’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Sickle cell anemia
- Tourette syndrome
For a complete list of approved medical conditions, visit the Commonwealth of PA’s website.
If caught in possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana without a medical marijuana ID card, you will now be penalized with a citation and $25 fine, while smoking in public will result in a $100 fine and a citation or 9 hours of community service.
But it’s important to note that the decriminalization only covers so much. For example, if you are in possession of over 30 grams of marijuana, you will face jail time and a fine of $5,000. The sale and distribution of marijuana are still considered a criminal offense despite the reform as well, even if the sale is under 30 grams. And if you are stopped by an officer for smoking in public, and cannot provide any form of identification, the officer is permitted to place you under arrest and confiscate the marijuana in your possession.
How our Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help
Marijuana is still considered a controlled substance and buying it from an unlawful source remains a stand-alone crime in Pennsylvania. You will be arrested, regardless of the quantity. First-time offenders are still eligible for probation, but courts can actually double the penalties, with the possibility of additionally charging for intent to distribute.
The recent decriminalization law shouldn’t make you careless about marijuana possession and the related consequences. If you or a family member has been charged, make sure you have the knowledge and experience of a top Philadelphia criminal defense attorney advising you throughout the process. Contact us immediately to discuss your case and start gathering evidence in your defense.