Medical marijuana became legal in Pennsylvania in 2016. Adult-use cannabis is not yet regulated in the state. Here is everything you need to know about the Keystone state’s cannabis laws, including adjustments made during the COVID-19 epidemic.
Possession and Purchasing Limits
Cannabis is legal for medicinal use only in Pennsylvania. The only legal place to purchase cannabis is from a state-licensed dispensary.
Before the COVID-19 emergency order issued by the Governor, the law authorized patients to purchase up to a 30-day supply of cannabis at any given time. Now, patients may purchase up to 90-days of cannabis. The quantity of a “30-day supply” and a “90-day supply” is determined by the patient and the pharmacist working at the dispensary.
The law does not clearly state where cannabis consumption is allowed or prohibited. However, the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits smoking in any public space or workplace. This suggests that patients should not vape cannabis in any public space.
The following forms of medical marijuana are available for purchase at dispensaries:
- Dry flower for vaporization
There is no law prohibiting patients from making their own edibles or cannabis products using cannabis purchased from licensed dispensaries.
Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence of cannabis is considered a DUI in Pennsylvania. Law enforcement officers will use their powers of observations to determine impairment. A DUI can cost thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees and can result in arrest, jail time, or community service time.
According to Federal and Pennsylvania law, it is illegal to take cannabis across state lines. It is illegal even if the state you are coming to or departing from has legalized cannabis. It is illegal even if the cannabis is medicine. Before leaving town by plane, car, bus, or train, make sure that you have safely stored or disposed of your medicine. Federal and state law prohibits sending cannabis by mail.
Pennsylvania medical marijuana patients are not allowed to grow their own cannabis at this time.
Qualifying Debilitating Medical Conditions
A person with one of the following medical conditions may be eligible to participate in Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Anxiety disorders
- Cancer, including remission therapy
- Crohn's disease
- Damage to the nervous tissue of the central nervous system (brain-spinal cord) with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, and other associated neuropathies
- Dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders
- HIV / AIDS
- Huntington's disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Intractable seizures
- Multiple sclerosis
- Neurodegenerative diseases
- Opioid use disorder for which conventional therapeutic interventions are contraindicated or ineffective, or for which adjunctive therapy is indicated in combination with primary therapeutic interventions
- Parkinson's disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain
- Sickle cell anemia
- Terminal illness
- Tourette syndrome
Applying for a Medical Marijuana Card in Pennsylvania
An adult or minor patient who is interested in participating in the Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program must first create a profile with the Department of Health’s Patient and Caregiver Registry. Patients who are under 18 years old can only access the medical marijuana program through a legal guardian who acts as their caregiver. Patients can use the Patient and Caregiver registry to find a practitioner who is approved to give patients certification for medical marijuana.
After creating a profile on the registry, patients should see the approved practitioner. During this appointment, the practitioner will confirm that the patient has one of the debilitating medical conditions. If the diagnosis is confirmed, the practitioner will give the patient certification.
Once certification is received from an approved practitioner, the patient can use the online Patient and Caregiver Registry to pay for their medical marijuana ID card. A patient or caregiver medical marijuana ID card is $50. Patients who participate in Medicaid, PACE/PACENET, CHIP, SNAP, and/or WIC may qualify for the discounted fee of $25. It will take 7 to 10 days for the patient to receive the card. It will be sent by mail to the address provided in the patient’s profile. Once the patient receives their medical marijuana card, they can visit a dispensary to purchase their medicine.
Each marijuana card expires after 12 months. Patients will receive a registration reminder email from the Department of Health 60 days before their card expires.
In order to renew, the patient must review their profile and update any information that has changed. Then, they must receive a new certification from a practitioner approved to certify patients for the use of medical marijuana. The patient can see any doctor approved by the state—they do not have to use the same doctor who provided them with their initial certification.
A renewal card costs $50. If the patient qualifies for the reduced fee, it is $25.
Response to Covid-19
Medical marijuana businesses have been deemed “essential” and “life-sustaining” during the coronavirus pandemic. This means that these businesses are open, but business is not as usual. The Department of Health has made the following changes in response to COVID-19:
- Patients do not need to go inside of the building to retrieve their medicine. Patients can pick up their cannabis medicine curbside. Dispensary employees can pick up ID cards from patients, dispense cannabis medicine, and deliver it to the patient’s vehicle.
- Caregivers may now serve more than 5 patients.
- Telemedicine is now allowed. Patients who are applying for a medical marijuana card for the first time and those who need to renew their cards may consult with state-approved doctors remotely to obtain certification for medical marijuana.
- Practitioners may authorize their patients to receive up to 90 days-worth of medicine. Previously, patients were limited to a 1-month supply. If the patient’s health care provider notes it in their recommendation, the patient can receive 3-months’ worth of cannabis medicine.
These rules will persist as long as the Governor’s Proclamation of Disaster Emergency remains in effect.