Medical Marijuana and Defendants’ Rights in Pennsylvania
People with medical marijuana cards have more freedom to possess and consume cannabis in Pennsylvania than people who do not have them, but simply being a medical card holder does not give you free rein to do all sorts of things that are illegal for other people. If the police catch you in possession of a small amount of cannabis, showing your card is usually all it takes to get them to leave you alone. What happens, though, if you have a medical cannabis card, and the police want to search your car to see if you have anything illegal, such as other drugs or more weed than your medical card entitles you to possess? Pennsylvania’s changing laws about cannabis raise other issues about the changing definition of suspicious behavior. If you have a medical marijuana card but are facing charges related to your marijuana possession, anyway, a Pennsylvania cannabis crimes lawyer can help you defend your rights.
Legalization of Cannabis for Medical and Recreational Use in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has had a medical marijuana program since 2016, and patients with medical cannabis cards can buy cannabis pills, oils, and topical preparations from licensed dispensaries, but dispensaries may not sell ready-made edibles. In 2018, laws went into effect allowing dispensaries to sell dried cannabis to be smoked.
In 2014, Philadelphia became the first city to decriminalize recreational use of cannabis; Pittsburgh followed suit the following year, and now cannabis has been decriminalized in ten cities across the state. In these cities, there are no criminal penalties for possessing 30 grams or less of cannabis; instead, people caught in possession of small amounts of cannabis must pay fines, as you would for a parking violation. People with medical cannabis cards are exempt from these fees.
In the News
Timothy Barr, 27, of Germansville, has a medical cannabis card. In August 2019, his wife was driving Barr’s mother’s car, while he rode in the passenger seat. The police pulled the car over when Barr’s wife failed to stop appropriately at a railroad crossing. When they smelled marijuana in the car, Barr showed his medical cannabis card, but the officer said that the marijuana smell was probable cause to search the car. The search yielded no drugs besides the amount of cannabis allowed by Barr’s medical card, but the officer found a handgun, which Barr was not allowed to possess because of a previous conviction.
In court, Barr’s attorney argued that the marijuana smell alone was not probable cause to search the car. The attorney requested to suppress the evidence of the handgun, as the officer violated Barr’s rights by searching for it. The case remains ongoing.
Let Us Help You Today
The laws are changing quickly, giving the people of Pennsylvania more freedom to use cannabis. Meanwhile, the issues of what is legal regarding cannabis have become more complicated, and you may need a defense lawyer to help you sort things out. Contact Pittsburgh drug crime lawyer Gary E. Gerson if you are facing charges related to marijuana crimes.