On April 17, 2016, the state took a giant step as Governor Tom Wolf signed Pennsylvania’s MMJ program into law. The new law, called Act 16, protects registered patients and their physicians from civil and criminal penalties. It also created a more organized and regulated system for patients to use medical marijuana.
Pennsylvania has provided exact instructions for patients, caregivers, and health practitioners. In late 2017, the patient application program finally opened with sales beginning in February 2018. Medical marijuana laws in Pennsylvania allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to purchase medical marijuana.
They can do so from any registered dispensary in the state. This is as long as they have obtained a valid MMJ card upon the recommendation of a qualified healthcare provider.
We’ve created a guide that explains the current process for applying for a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania. Do you live in Pennsylvania and require an MMJ license to purchase and use cannabis? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then this step-by-step guide is for you. First, let’s check out the state’s cannabis laws.
Marijuana Laws in Pennsylvania
There is a major push to legalize adult-use cannabis in Pennsylvania. However, at present, it remains illegal to use marijuana in PA without an MMJ card. The general rule is that the possession of any amount of cannabis is a misdemeanor. A conviction can lead to a fine of $500 and 30 days in prison. The potential jail term increases to a year if caught in possession of over 30 grams.
Likewise, selling any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor with up to 30 days of incarceration. The sale of more than 30 grams is a felony with a prison sentence of 2.5 – 5 years. You could receive the same punishment for cultivating any number of marijuana plants.
However, a growing number of municipalities have decriminalized the use of the drug. Locations such as Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Lancaster, and Carlisle, have decriminalized the possession of up to 30 grams. You can expect to receive nothing more than a fine of $25 in these municipalities.
How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Pennsylvania
Before you begin the process, make sure you are:
- At least 18 years of age.
- A legal resident of Pennsylvania that can provide proof of residency. This means a state driver’s license or state-issued ID card. Make sure your home address is up to date.
You must also have one of the qualifying conditions, which we outline later on.
Step 1 – Register Online
Go online and access the Patients and Caregivers Registry. You will need to create a patient profile and provide necessary information such as your legal name, current address, etc. Next, you must find a licensed Pennsylvania doctor registered with the state’s Department of Health.
You should begin gathering your medical history and all relevant medical documents. Your MMJ doctor will look over your complete record before they can recommend marijuana for you.
[When you call your healthcare provider’s office, make sure they fax your medical history directly to the doctor that is performing your cannabis evaluation. If you opt to receive it yourself, you will likely have to pay an additional fee].
Step 2 – Obtain a Physician’s Recommendation
You can only use a doctor registered with the state’s Department of Health as a Medical Marijuana Approved Practitioner. If your current physician is not registered with the system, the state provides an up-to-date, electronic database of doctors who are.
*[Please note that you need to have completed your profile in the Patient and Caregiver Registry (Step 1) before any doctor can evaluate you].
Physicians have access to the state’s marijuana registry program. If they deem you a qualified patient, they will submit your recommendation online. There is no specific form that you need to print out or bring into the office.
An eligible patient is diagnosed with one of the medical conditions deemed ‘treatable’ by medical marijuana under PA law. You must also have a “bona fide physician-patient relationship” with your recommending doctor. As per legislation in House Bill 1393, this is defined as a “physician who has completed a full assessment of the patient’s medical history and current medical condition, including a personal physical examination.”
Step 3 – Pay for the Application/Medical Marijuana ID Card
Once you have your physician’s medical recommendation, log into the Patient and Caregiver Registry. You can now complete your application and pay for the Pennsylvania medical marijuana ID card.
- An electronic copy of a photo ID (as outlined above)
- A current digital photograph (for your new MMJ card)
- A Visa or Mastercard for payment
Also, all MMJ patients (minors) under the age of 18 must have a caregiver apply on their behalf. The caregiver (typically the child’s parent or legal guardian) must complete the state’s Safe Harbor Form.
Step 4 – Visit a State-Licensed Dispensary and Purchase Medical Marijuana!
Finally, you can obtain your valid MMJ identification card and purchase cannabis in state-licensed dispensaries. Pennsylvania has approved dozens of dispensary applications. You can check online to see updates and determine if there are many facilities near you.
[For more information, you can contact the PA Department of Health Services at 717-772-8284, or email them at RA-DHMedMarijuana@pa.gov]
What Are the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Costs?
As of now, the application fee is $50 for adult patients. Patients who qualify for one of the following government programs (and can provide proof) are possibly eligible for a reduced fee of $25:
- PACE/ PACENET
It also costs $50 to renew your MMJ card. While some consultations can cost $200, we have heard that some physicians offer them for under $100.
[You can find more information on the Pennsylvania Medical Card process by visiting the state’s FAQ page].
What Conditions Qualify for a Medical Marijuana Card in Pennsylvania?
Here is a list of the qualifying conditions at the time of writing:
- Anxiety disorders
- Cancer (including remission therapy)
- Crohn’s disease
- Nervous tissue damage to the brain/spinal cord (CNS damage)
- Dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders (spasticity)
- Huntington’s disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Intractable seizures
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Neurodegenerative diseases
- Opioid use disorder
- Parkinson’s disease
- Intractable / Chronic pain
- Sickle cell anemia
- Terminal illness
- Tourette syndrome
How to Renew a Medical Marijuana Card in Pennsylvania
As of July 30, 2020, it is no longer necessary to renew your registration to remain part of the Pennsylvania MMJ program. However, you still need to take certain steps to ensure you remain protected under the state’s medical marijuana law.
In PA, your MMJ card is valid for one year from the date it was issued. You will receive an email 60 days before your patient certification expires. At this point, you need to book another consultation with a licensed physician to receive your annual patient certification. It is legal to use a different doctor than the one that gave you a previous certification.
After the physician certifies you, a new card is printed and mailed to the address you have listed in the patient portal. Payments are made annually rather than being tied to the ID card. You’ll receive an email reminder to pay the $50 renewal fee 30 days before your card expires. This fee becomes $25 if you’ve qualified for a reduction.
Can a PA Medical Marijuana Cardholder Use a Caregiver?
You can choose a caregiver to buy, possess, and administer MMJ on your behalf. The individual you select must:
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Be a resident of Pennsylvania with proof of residency and address
- Complete a criminal background check
- Not have a conviction for an offense relating to controlled substances within the last five years
You can designate up to two caregivers in the patient and caregiver registry. All minors are required to have a caregiver.
There is a separate caregiver profile that contains all the relevant patient information. Caregivers can also update their details in this profile. At present, the Pennsylvania MMJ program allows caregivers to care for up to five patients. Please note that it can take 4-6 weeks after the fingerprint appointment to determine whether the program has approved a caregiver.
Other Information on the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana License Process
Here is all you need to know about the current rules and restrictions on medical cannabis in Pennsylvania:
How Much Cannabis Can I Buy & Possess?
There is no specific limit. Instead, patients are permitted to buy a 90-day supply; their physician determines the amount. Until June 2021, the limit was 30 days, but Governor Wolf signed HB 1024 into law. However, patients can only purchase once they have no more than a seven-day supply of previously dispensed cannabis.
It is also possible to have restrictions on the type of product a patient can buy. This information is outlined in the certification.
Where Can I Use My MMJ?
You are only allowed to use marijuana in a private residence. Public use of the substance remains prohibited.
Can I Grow Cannabis in Pennsylvania?
No, MMJ patients are not permitted to grow cannabis at home. Cultivating the plant is a felony regardless of whether you are a medical marijuana patient. The state Senate blocked a bill proposing the legalization of cannabis growing amongst MMJ patients in June 2021.
Are There Any Restrictions for Patients?
Yes. Even as a valid MMJ patient in the state of PA, you may NOT:
- Drive under the influence of marijuana
- Give or sell marijuana to anybody
- Possess or use marijuana on a school bus or school grounds
- Smoke marijuana (dry herb/flower/buds must be used with a vaporizer)
- Utilize medical marijuana in a workplace environment
- Purchase food or drinks infused with marijuana
What Types of Cannabis Can I Buy in a Dispensary?
There is still a restriction on smoking dry marijuana flower in Pennsylvania. As a result, dispensaries sell the following forms of the herb only:
- Tinctures & liquids
- Topicals such as ointments and patches
- Dry leaf or plant material for nebulization or vaporization ONLY
Can I Only Apply Online? Or Can I Physically Apply?
The application for medical marijuana in Pennsylvania takes place online (see outlined steps above).
How Long Does It Take to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Pennsylvania?
If all of your paperwork is in order, you should receive your card within three weeks. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, you should allow seven days for printing the MMJ card from when you pay your application fee. From there, it can take 14 days to receive it in the mail.
What Are Approved Medical Marijuana Card Holders Entitled to?
Patients are permitted to possess a 30-day supply of medical marijuana, as recommended by their physician.
Can I Take My Medical Marijuana to a Different State?
No. According to current state laws, patients who obtain a medical card may only use medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.
Medical marijuana patients could face local and federal charges of transporting cannabis if they cross state lines with the plant. This is valid even if the states between which they are traveling permit the use of medical marijuana.
Contact the Department of Health directly to avoid breaking any laws if you plan to travel and bring cannabis with you.
Where Can I Buy Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania?
The state provides a list of current dispensaries. You may access/view the list by visiting the official Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program website. At present, there are over 110 dispensaries in the state. It is a rapidly growing program, and few states have more registered MMJ patients than Pennsylvania.
Are Minors Allowed to Use/Apply for Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania?
Children under the age of 18 may apply for and use medical marijuana. A designated caregiver, typically the minor’s parent or legal guardian, must complete the application. The Pennsylvania Safe Harbor Letter permits legal guardians, parents, caregivers, and spouses of minors to possess and administer MMJ on the patient’s behalf.
Can I Use Medical Marijuana Anywhere?
Even with a valid MMJ card, Pennsylvania residents may not use medical marijuana in public places. Also, a patient cannot drive a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.
Final Thoughts on Getting a Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Card
The recent change to the MMJ law means that patients now benefit from a generous 90-day supply limit. Qualifying for a Pennsylvania medical marijuana card means proving you have one of the requisite conditions. It is illegal to cultivate marijuana in PA, and there are severe penalties for doing so.
Follow the information outlined above to earn Pennsylvania MMJ certification.
Have any other questions? Please contact us through our Facebook Page or go directly to the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program.
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