Free case evaluation

Punishment for Marijuana Possession vs. Distribution in Pennsylvania

Posted on July 30th, 2017

Although some form of marijuana is now legal in 26 states and the District of Columbia, in Pennsylvania marijuana is an illicit Schedule I substance. This means marijuana has no legitimate medical use. The state of Pennsylvania has only legalized medical marijuana in expensive treatments such as edible cannabis extracts, topical creams, and vale-pen cartridges. It remains illegal to smoke the substance. Marijuana offenses in the state of Pennsylvania fall under two categories: possession of marijuana for personal use and possession of marijuana for distribution. Learn the different penalties for each type of offense.

Marijuana Possession

The Pennsylvania criminal justice system treats possessing marijuana for personal use as a much more minor offense than possession with the intent to distribute. This does not mean, however, that an individual won’t get in a lot of trouble for possessing the drug. Possession of this controlled substance falls under the laws in Pennsylvania Code Title 35. According to this law, there are two different categories of simple marijuana possession, each with separate punishments:

1. Possession of a controlled substance. This law covers all illegal drugs in the state, including marijuana. The maximum penalty for this offense is 12 months of jail time and fines of up to $5,000 for first-time offenders. Second-time offenders may face up to three years incarceration and fines of $25,000.

2. Possession of a “small amount of marijuana.” If found in possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana for personal use, the maximum penalty is 30 days incarceration and a $500 fine.

An offender may also face charges and penalties for possessing “drug paraphernalia” in relation to marijuana use. Paraphernalia may include pipes, bongs, rolling papers, or any other device used to consume, store, or conceal an illicit drug. Getting caught with drug paraphernalia can result in up to one year jail time and fines of $2,500. This is a strange condition of Pennsylvania law – the penalties for possessing marijuana-related paraphernalia may be up to 12 times as great as the penalties for possessing the drug itself.

Marijuana Possession with Intent to Distribute

If caught with marijuana for distribution, “manufacture,” or the intent to deliver in Pennsylvania, an individual faces much more severe consequences than simple possession. Unlike many other states, the drug laws in Pennsylvania charge for distribution based on intent to sell rather than the amount of drugs found. While in other states, officers judge intent based on the amount of marijuana the individual possesses – there is no weight cut-off in Pennsylvania. This means an individual could face penalties for possession of marijuana for distribution with even the smallest amount of the drug.

Possessing 30 grams or less for distribution is a misdemeanor that results in 30 days of jail time and $500 in fines. The penalties increase from there based on the weight of drugs found, all the way to 10 years in jail and $100,000 in fines for more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana with intent to sell. All charges after 30 grams or less are considered felonies. Courts may increase the maximum fine amounts based on proceeds gained from the sale of drugs. Growing marijuana in Pennsylvania is an automatic felony charge, regardless of whether the individual intended to sell the drug.

For an offender with no prior record, possession of drugs with intent to distribute could come with a probation period instead of jail time. However, the state’s strict school zone laws often result in harsher penalties. Pennsylvania Code Section 6317, lists mandatory sentences for dealing or growing marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school’s real property line or 250 feet within a playground or recreational center. If charged under the school zone laws, an individual could face two to four years in prison. Seek help from a criminal defense attorney if you’re facing marijuana charges in Pennsylvania.