Marijuana legalization has been at the forefront of political discussion in recent years, with many states allowing the use of medical and recreational marijuana. Despite these changes, marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, and many cities in states where marijuana is legal continue to prosecute marijuana-related offenses. This has led to confusion and misinformation about the legal landscape surrounding marijuana charges, especially in cities such as Philadelphia. In this blog post, we will take a comprehensive look at whether Philadelphia prosecutes marijuana charges and what you need to know if you are facing such charges.
The short answer to whether Philadelphia prosecutes marijuana charges is yes, but with some important nuances. First, it is worth noting that in 2014, Philadelphia became the largest city in the United States to decriminalize marijuana. Under the ordinance, possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana results in a $25 fine for adults and a $100 fine for juveniles. This means that a small amount of marijuana possession in Philadelphia is not a criminal offense, and fines have replaced handcuffs and possible jail time. However, it’s essential to remember that decriminalization is not the same thing as legalization.
Apart from the decriminalization ordinance, possession of marijuana remains illegal in Pennsylvania, and this includes Philadelphia. Being caught with over 30 grams of marijuana can result in criminal charges, and Pennsylvania law also prohibits growing marijuana plants, even for personal use. Moreover, the city and state laws now allow for the possession of medical marijuana for several specific medical conditions, so long as the patient has obtained a prescription from a qualified doctor, and the dispensary provides it. A possession charge can still be filed, and there can be charges of distribution if a person distributes marijuana without a medical use card.
In other words, while it’s true that Philadelphia no longer prosecutes simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense, the sale and distribution of marijuana remain illegal, and the weight and amount can lead to criminal charges. This means that it’s essential to understand the nuances of Philadelphia’s marijuana laws and to seek legal advice if you have been charged with any marijuana-related offenses.
Another crucial factor to consider is that cannabis remains illegal at the federal level. This means that even though Philadelphia has decriminalized marijuana, federal authorities can theoretically enforce the federal law at any time, which can seriously compound the charges against you. Even if federal authorities do not intervene, having a criminal record for marijuana possession could hinder your ability to get a job, housing, or even student loans.
So, does Philadelphia prosecute marijuana charges? Yes, with some important qualifications. While the city has decriminalized small amounts of marijuana possession, growing or selling marijuana remains illegal. And even if you happen to be within the range allowed by decriminalization, you should still be careful not to give federal law enforcement any reason to intervene. At the federal level, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance, and the laws around it are still incredibly complicated. If you are facing marijuana-related charges, it’s essential to seek legal advice to understand the potential consequences and your options. Ultimately, in Philadelphia and elsewhere, decriminalization is not the same thing as legalization and should not be taken as carte blanche to use, grow or distribute marijuana.