With the recent victories in the fight for legalization in Pennsylvania, my office has fielded a multitude of calls from people with questions regarding marijuana and the law. Everyone from those who want to know where to obtain medicinal marijuana for legitimate medical conditions and people who want to open dispensaries, to those facing criminal charges for possessing, growing or selling pot.
There is indeed much confusion out there.
Governor Tom Wolf has asked authorities not to prosecute those individuals who would otherwise qualify under the new medicinal marijuana law, even going as far as to suggest they ‘look the other way’ in cases where a parent with a sick child obtains MM from outside the state.
Although the sentiment is certainly appreciated, a suggestion from the Governor does not change the law.
Marijuana is still illegal. Transporting it across state lines is illegal. Selling it, even with the best intentions, is illegal. Growing marijuana is illegal, no matter how sick the grower is, and carries with it the additional charge of “Manufacturing”. As far as the law is concerned, a pot farm is the same as a Meth lab.
Cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have enacted decriminalization policies that allow police the discretion to treat a possession charge as a civil violation where a fine is the punishment, much like a traffic ticket, as opposed to a misdemeanor, which carries with it a criminal record and stiffer penalties, including the loss of driving privileges, probation and even jail time.
In Pittsburgh, this policy applies only within city limits, not in Allegheny county, and is applicable at the discretion of the arresting officer. An important point to keep in mind when interacting with the police.
This city-only policy does not apply in the many small communities that make up our metropolitan area. Police departments in boroughs like Mt. Oliver have no obligation to honor Pittsburgh’s decrim policy, despite the fact that these communities are technically within city limits. In the case of Mt. Oliver, the Pittsburgh Zone 3 police station is literally a few blocks away, but they have their own police department. More confusion.
In one case we have, a borough department went as far as to set up a sting operation, using a confidential informant and controlled buys, to arrest a young man for selling– wait for it– two quarter ounces of pot. That’s it. Not meth or cocaine or heroin. Pot. In a total quantity that is typically considered a small amount that would easily fall under the city decrim policy.
It’s almost laughable– except to the young man who is being charged. For him, it’s very serious.
Marijuana is still illegal, and depending on where you are if caught, an arrest can lead to serious repercussions, so use common sense and don’t flaunt the law.
If you are arrested outside the city, facing a court appearance and not just a ticket, please give us a call. We will use every means at our disposal to minimize or eliminate the damage a drug conviction carries with it.