States around the country are starting to legalize the recreational consumption
of marijuana, and that’s led those who are enthusiasts or otherwise
simply enjoy consuming the substance to make trips to these states in
order to enjoy it for themselves without the added risk of trouble with
the law. For this reason, tourism to states like Colorado, California,
Massachusetts, Vermont, and several others has become popular. In fact,
for Colorado in particular, the move to legalize marijuana under heavy
taxation has created a billion-dollar industry that’s generated
millions in revenue for the government.
However, Pennsylvania is not one of them. In fact, Pennsylvania only recently
opted to begin an extremely limited medical marijuana program that’s
under heavy scrutiny and control from regulatory authorities. As such,
you may be tempted to take a vacation to one of these states and enjoy
partaking in recreational marijuana for yourself. This is perfectly legal
and you’re well within your right to do so if you so choose, provided
you aren’t violating any restrictions placed on you by employers
or through terms of parole or probation.
But that being said, you could still run into trouble back at home should
you decide to continue your consumption there. Possession of marijuana
without authorization is a criminal offense in Pennsylvania, and one that’s
been on the rise since states like Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island,
and Maine decided to legalize marijuana recreationally. A number of these
“cannabis tourists” purchase a small amount of the substance
as a souvenir of sorts and then travel back home with it in their luggage
to enjoy later, like how someone may purchase a bottle of fine wine from
a vineyard they visit.
While many of these people are found going through airports (as their luggage
all needs to be scanned before being allowed on the plane, law enforcement
officers have been stepping up their efforts as well. It’s not uncommon
for officers to pull over motorists in areas near state lines, whom they
may suspect are transporting a controlled substance. In many cases, the
stop starts with something as simple as a tail light being out or a failure
to signal when changing lanes, but soon turns into an officer questioning
vehicle occupants about what they did while on their vacation. The officer’s
goal is to get to a point where they can request to search the vehicle
and then arrest anyone who may have marijuana on them.
Tips for Trip-Takers
There are a few things you should remember if you’re planning on
taking one of these cannabis vacations.
- You are well within your legal rights to participate in the consumption
of marijuana, provided you follow the state you’re visiting’s
laws and not violating any orders you may be under. So long as you are
not committing another offense like driving under the influence, you cannot
be charged by Pennsylvania officers.
- You do not have to consent to a search of your bags, your vehicle, or your
person by an officer, unless they have a search warrant. Officers are
usually skilled in making it
sound compulsory that they be allowed to search your car, but you are allowed
to refuse. Refusing is
not strong enough grounds for officers to establish probable cause and then
search your vehicle.
- Marijuana that you are legally allowed to possess in Pennsylvania must
be obtained from a state-authorized dispensary. Marijuana purchased outside
of Pennsylvania borders is still considered illegal to possess, even if
it’s within the amount you would otherwise be allowed to have under
Penalties for Marijuana Offenses in Pennsylvania
Being found in possession of marijuana in Pennsylvania is a serious offense.
Possession of a small amount of marijuana (up to 30 grams, or a little
more than the weight of a AA battery) is a misdemeanor which can carry
up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. More than 30 grams can
carry up to a year in prison plus a fine of up to $5,000.
However, possession with an intent to distribute, also known as “delivery,”
is considered a felony. That means you could face more than a year in
prison plus massive fines if you’re convicted as well. You may claim
that you have no intent to deliver marijuana, but factors like individually-packaged
nuggets may suggest the opposite to prosecutors who will likely try to
include this in your accusations.