Recently our law firm has received a number of questions regarding simple possession of a controlled substance like marijuana and the separate criminal charge of a small amount of marijuana.
Possession of a Controlled Substance vs. Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana
In Pennsylvania, Title 35 § 780-113(16) makes it illegal for any person to knowingly or intentionally possess a controlled or counterfeit substance within the Commonwealth. A violation of this statute is an ungraded misdemeanor and the maximum penalty under the law is 1 year in jail and a $5,000.00 fine. Possession of a small amount of marijuana, however, under Title 35 § 780-113(31) is still a misdemeanor crime within the Commonwealth but the maximum penalty is 30 days in jail and a $500.00 fine.
Possession of A Small Amount of Marijuana is still a conviction!
It’s important to keep in mind however that a conviction for a small amount of marijuana versus a larger amount is still a criminal conviction in the Commonwealth. In addition to the conviction, PennDot can and will suspend your driver’s license regardless of whether or not the offense occurred during the operation of a car or motor vehicle within the state. Further, a drug conviction could seriously hinder your professional or academic opportunities. While simple possession or possession of a small amount of marijuana is not a felony offense unlike possession with the intent to deliver (PWID) under Title 35 § 780-113(30) I would not advise a person to simply plead guilty to this lower offense or accept a diversion program (ARD, AMP) without understanding the consequences of these dispositions. Remember that a license suspension is an administrative action and that PennDot, under Title 75 § 1532(c), will suspend the operating privileges of any person convicted of any offense involving the possession or illegal use of a controlled substance including a small amount of marijuana.
What is actually considered a small amount of Marijuana in Pennsylvania!
In the Commonwealth, a small amount of marijuana is defined as the possession of no more than 30 grams of marijuana or 8 grams of hashish. Thirty grams is approximately 1 ounce of this Schedule I controlled substance. Remember, the federal government still classifies Marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance (no accepted medical use) despite its legalization for medical purposes in the Commonwealth. Unlike Pennsylvania, the Garden State has moved toward the legalization of this drug for recreational use similar to the following states:
In addition to recreational use, the following states have approved marijuana for medical purposes:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- West Virginia
For more information on illegal narcotics in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, I encourage you to keep reading this blog.