What Are the Penalties for Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana in Pennsylvania?

Marijuana is becoming an increasingly acceptable substance in the United States. State legislatures throughout the country are negotiating in good faith on whether to allow it to be used medicinally and recreationally, and passing laws that regulate where and how it can be purchased, and by whom. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania continues to consider marijuana a controlled substance and categorizes it as one that is prohibited for use without a prescription in the same way that it does cocaine, methamphetamines and other narcotics. However, the actual legal processing of this law generally depends upon where you are located in the state.

For example, if you are in State College, where Penn State University is based, you will find that the local authorities adhere strictly to the state’s laws regarding marijuana possession. By contrast, in the city of Philadelphia possessing a small amount of marijuana has been decriminalized entirely. If you have been caught possessing marijuana, it is a good idea to start with an understanding of what the law is and move forward from there – it is likely to be your ’worst case scenario’ in terms of penalties.

Pennsylvania’s laws regarding marijuana possession and use fall under the Pennsylvania Controlled Substances, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, which defines a small amount of marijuana as 30 grams or less. Anybody found possessing that amount of the substances qualifies to be charged with what is known as an “ungraded” misdemeanor. The harshest penalty for this is up to 30 days in prison or a fine not to exceed $500, or both. You can also have your driver’s license suspended up to six months for a first offense up to one year for a second offense, and two years for a third or subsequent offense.

By contrast, those who are charged with simple possession can be looking at up to a year in jail, up to a $5,000 fine, or both, with subsequent offenses resulting in up to three years of imprisonment, a $25,000 fine or both. Though a police officer can choose to charge you with either possession of a small amount of marijuana or simple possession, court rulings have made it clear that an experienced defense attorney can swing a charge of simple possession to the lower charge.  If you have been charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana, we can provide you with the legal defense and guidance that you need. Contact the offices of Baer Romain and Ginty to learn more.