What You Need To Know About PA Drug Laws And Sentencing In 2019

Pennsylvania came closer than ever to decriminalizing marijuana when the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of House Bill 928, a proposed piece of legislation that would have downgraded possession of small amounts of marijuana to a summary offense.

But the 2018 legislative session ended without a vote on the bill, meaning it is tabled at least until the state legislature meets in 2019.

That means possession of marijuana, even a tiny amount, remains a misdemeanor crime in Pennsylvania, punishable by fines and imprisonment. Certain cities, such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, have passed local ordinances reducing the penalties for marijuana possession.

Proposed Decriminalization of Marijuana in Pennsylvania

House Bill 928 seeks to downgrade marijuana possession of 30 grams or less from a misdemeanor crime to a summary offense. It would also cap the penalty for simple possession at $300 and no jail time, as opposed to the current maxes of a $500 fine and 30 days in jail. The $300 cap and lack of criminal charge would remain in place for a first and second offense; a third offense would result in an upgrade to a misdemeanor charge.

Even if the bill passes, marijuana possession would remain a misdemeanor charge in several situations:

  • You are caught in possession of more than 30 grams of marijuana;
  • You are under 18 years old;
  • You are driving or occupying a vehicle at the time of possession;
  • You are found in possession of marijuana on school grounds or in school-provided transportation.

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Pennsylvania’s Drug Laws for 2019

The punishment for drug possession increases for subsequent offenses and for possessing harder drugs than pot. If you are caught with more than a certain quantity of a drug, or you are attempting to transport drugs across state lines, you could face an intent to sell charge, which carries stiffer penalties.

The drug laws in Pennsylvania vary based on the type of drug:


Marijuana laws in Pennsylvania still consider it a Schedule I drug, and possession is a misdemeanor crime. The punishment for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana is a maximum fine of $500 and a maximum jail sentence of 30 days. If you are convicted of possessing more than 30 grams of marijuana, you could face up to a $5,000 fine and a year in jail.

These penalties can double if it is your second or subsequent conviction for possession.

Heroin, Cocaine, Meth, and Other “Hard” Drugs

You can be charged and convicted of a felony for possessing heroin, cocaine, meth, PCP, or other drugs considered “harder” than marijuana. A felony conviction can lead to substantially greater fines and jail time, not to mention a black mark on your record that can haunt you forever.

Drug Paraphernalia

In Pennsylvania, possession of drug paraphernalia is a crime, punishable by fines and jail time. Paraphernalia may include rolling papers, bongs, syringes, and the like. A possession of paraphernalia charge is punishable by up to a $2,500 fine and one year in jail.

For a Free Case Evaluation With a Drug Defense Lawyer From McKenzie Law Firm, P.C., Call 610-680-7842 Today

A drug crime lawyer at McKenzie Law Firm, P.C., can help you fight drug charges. David McKenzie is a former prosecutor who uses his experience on the other side to build his clients’ cases and represent them in the criminal justice system. Call 610-680-7842 to speak with a member of our team today.

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