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How a "Cannabis Vacation" Can Get You in Trouble in Pennsylvania

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 your prescription.

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.

If you’ve been accused of possession of marijuana, contact the Law Offices of William D. Thompson today at (570) 666-1068 and request a case evaluation!