Medical Marijuana vs. Cannabis Legalization in Pennsylvania: A Legal Perspective

Marijuana and cannabis are not the same, although many people mistakenly use them interchangeably. Cannabis refers to all the products derived from Cannabis sativa, a plant that contains about 540 chemicals. The term “marijuana” refers to parts or products in the Cannabis Sativa plant, but it contains substantial amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This article will help you understand the laws in Pennsylvania.

Is Medical Marijuana Legal in Pennsylvania?

Medical marijuana is legal in Pennsylvania, but only for those who possess a medical marijuana card. Only a card will allow you to purchase medical marijuana from dispensaries in the state. If you are not a medical marijuana card holder, it is a criminal offense to possess, grow, sell, or distribute medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.

Is Cannabis Legal in Pennsylvania?

Recreational cannabis is still illegal in Pennsylvania. Nevertheless, possession of small amounts was decriminalized. Possessing an ounce is only considered a civil violation and will get you to pay a $25 fine. Pennsylvania residents may still purchase CBD-infused products with under 0.03% THC.

Can I Buy Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania?

Yes! Medical marijuana is legal in Pennsylvania but it can be accessed only by registered patients with a medical marijuana card. In the meantime, recreational users may purchase CBD-infused products that do not contain more than 0.03% THC.

If you do hold a medical marijuana card, you will be allowed to legally purchase up to a 30-day supply of the medicine per patient. The only case in which you or a caregiver may purchase more is if a doctor has specified so in your prescription.

Getting a Medical Marijuana Card in Pennsylvania

Medical marijuana is only legal for those who suffer from a qualifying medical condition. To become a registered patient with legal rights to purchase medical marijuana, a state-licensed physician must determine that you would indeed benefit from this treatment. Some of the conditions that qualify for receiving medical marijuana treatment in Pennsylvania include, but are not limited to:

  • Muscle spasticity
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Autism
  • Glaucoma
  • Cancer, including remission therapy
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • HIV / AIDS
  • Intractable seizures
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Neuropathies
  • Terminal illness

After you receive a written recommendation from your doctor, you can proceed to apply for the Pennsylvania medical marijuana program. To apply for a card, you will need to show proof of residence and be at least 18 years of age. If you are a minor and your doctor recommends medical marijuana as treatment, you will need to have a legal guardian or a caregiver purchase and administer it on your behalf.

Caregivers in Pennsylvania must also hold a medical marijuana card and only distribute it to their patients. They must also be no less than 21 years of age and be able to show proof of residency.

All applications are approved by the PA Department of Health. Once you become a marijuana card holder, you can legally purchase products from any dispensary in Pennsylvania.

As a medical card holder, you are permitted to consume medical marijuana products in your home or private residence. Very rarely, workplaces may also allow for it, but these are only special cases. If you wish to consume medical marijuana anywhere else than your home or private residence, you will need special authorization for it.

The Benefits of Medical Marijuana

Doctors are increasingly recommending medical marijuana for conditions and symptoms that show no improvement after undergoing standard treatment. Although a lot of research is being conducted on the subject, no conclusive medical data has been provided to the medical community. Nevertheless, recent studies have been very successful. 

Some of the most common findings were that patients experienced relief with conditions and symptoms such as inflammation, severe nausea, insomnia, loss of appetite, muscle spasms, epilepsy, and many more.

One other main benefit of medical marijuana is that it presents very little side-effects and low risk of developing an addiction. Many doctors may prescribe medical marijuana in combination with other standard treatments. Medical marijuana is widely recommended for alleviating pain, especially when other medicines may cause addiction or damage to organs if administered for a long time.

Bottom Line

Although marijuana is still not fully legalized in Pennsylvania, patients can easily access medical marijuana as long as they suffer from a qualifying medical condition. You must make sure that your condition qualifies and go through the application process. 

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