Yesterday Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, stated that his state “needs” to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis. Following the nationwide trend (the District of Colombia and 20 U.S. states have thus far decriminalized), Pennsylvania is seeking to decrease the impact of its cannabis possession laws on the general population. Wolf’s reasons for decriminalization of cannabis are the high rate of incarcerations, the destruction of families over cannabis sentencing and prison time, and the possibility of economic improvement in his state. Not everyone in Pennsylvania agrees with Wolf’s observations; the Dauphin County District Attorney, Ed Marsico, notes that Pennsylvania’s possession laws are far from strict already.
Pennsylvania’s Cannabis Laws
In some areas of the Great Dane state, possession of 30 grams of cannabis or less is a misdemeanor which carries a maximum of 30 days of incarceration and a $500 fine; over 30 grams may result in one year of incarceration and a $5,000 penalty. Philadelphia originally decriminalized marijuana in 2014, making criminal penalties for possession obsolete and instituting a civil $25 fine for up to an ounce of cannabis. As of 2015, Pittsburgh’s laws made possession of less than 30 grams of cannabis or eight grams of hash subject to $100 fine instead of time in prison. With the May 17th Act 16 in effect, the state is currently trying to define its regulatory laws for medical cannabis patients. The medical cannabis act should allow patients to purchase medical cannabis from 50 state dispensaries beginning in 2018, and also 25 grow facilities. The conditions that Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis Act 16 will cover currently include cancer, AIDS, amyotrophic lateral and multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, intractable spasticity, epilepsy, IBD, neuropathies, Huntington’s disease, PTSD, glaucoma, sickle cell anemia, Crohn’s disease, autism (these two conditions are not in the original Act, but appear to have been added since its inception), and intractable pain and seizures. The law Wolf is referring to would decriminalize cannabis in Harrisburg, one of Pennsylvania’s three largest cities, and its capital.
Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program
Implemented by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the medical marijuana program is intended to take up to two years for completion and rollout, and includes a Safe Harbor Letter option for parents, caregivers, legal guardians, and spouses of minors under 18 who suffer from the allowed medical cannabis conditions listed above. The program will also include a four-hour training class required for all medical cannabis prescribing physicians, pharmacists, certified nurse practitioners, and physician’s assistants. In addition, a two-hour course will be required for principals and employees of all medical cannabis organizations who have direct contact with patients, caregivers, or the medical cannabis itself. Let’s hope that Wolf is successful in the further decriminalizing of cannabis in Pennsylvania, and that the regulations the states puts into effect result in positive economic and medical gains for the state in general.