How do Philly’s marijuana laws work?
If you’re confused about how the marijuana laws work, it doesn’t mean that you’re high: The laws in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania all work differently. We’re here to help.
If you’ve been to a public event in Philly before, then you have probably at least smelled marijuana. It’s not legal to smoke openly in public, but many do. After all — you basically can’t be arrested for it.
That’s because the city decriminalized the possession and use of marijuana in Philadelphia in 2014. The Philadelphia Police Department also shouldn’t arrest you for buying pot in the city. Ever since then, marijuana-related offenses that would’ve been charged as a crime are now considered civil offenses.
Keep in mind, this is just in Philadelphia. If you are in any of the collar counties, marijuana has not been decriminalized.
But if you’re confused about how the marijuana laws work, it doesn’t mean that you’re high: The laws in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania (outside of Philly) all work differently. We’re here to help.
Is marijuana legal in Philly?
No. In Philadelphia, marijuana is decriminalized — not legalized. This means that while marijuana is still technically illegal, you won’t get in any criminal trouble for possessing, smoking, or buying “small amounts” of marijuana in the city, according to the Philadelphia Police Department. Instead, you will be issued a civil violation notice (CVN) that comes with a fine, even if you bought the marijuana legally in New Jersey.
Civil violations do not show up on your criminal or driving record.
What about legal New Jersey recreational marijuana?
While New Jersey legalized the sale of marijuana for adult use, Philly residents still can’t bring that legal New Jersey weed back to Pennsylvania. To do so, you’d have to cross state lines with it and that can land you in serious trouble.
Can I get arrested for possession of marijuana in Philly?
No, as long as it’s less than 30 grams. If you’re issued a CVN for possession of a small amount of marijuana, you’ll be fined $25.
Can I get arrested for smoking marijuana in Philly?
No, as long as you have less than 30 grams of marijuana in your possession. If you’re issued a CVN for smoking marijuana in public, you’ll be fined $100.
Can I get arrested for buying marijuana in Philly?
Technically, no. While it’s rare to be arrested — and the District Attorney’s Office won’t prosecute you for it — buying small amounts of marijuana in Philly can still get you arrested. According to police spokesperson Jasmine Reilly, you will only get arrested for buying small amounts of pot if a misdemeanor or felony is occurring during the deal.
So, while the laws in Philly state that you should not be arrested for buying small amounts of marijuana, there still is a possibility you could.
Can I get arrested for selling marijuana in Philly?
Yes. And there are really no exceptions to this rule — even if it’s a small amount of pot. Additionally, possessing large amounts of marijuana — over 30 grams — can be seen by investigators as an “intent to sell” marijuana.
“The selling, manufacturing, or delivery of marijuana is still illegal and constitutes as a felony,” said Reilly.
If you’re caught selling weed, you will most likely be arrested.
Can I get arrested for driving while high in Philly?
Yes. In Pennsylvania, driving under the influence (DUI) is defined as driving with any amount of a controlled substance in the blood. However, with cannabis, its chemicals can remain in the body for a long time after use — so you can still be arrested even if you last smoked a few days ago. Here’s a breakdown of questions you may have about driving and consuming cannabis.
If I’m under 18 years old, can I get arrested for marijuana in Philly?
No, as long as you have under 30 grams of marijuana in your possession. However, the police will temporarily detain you and notify your parent or guardian that you’ve been caught with marijuana in your possession. Both you and your parent or guardian will be issued a CVN, and your parent or guardian will be responsible for paying the fine.
What if I’m on parole or probation?
Philly’s decriminalization ordinance most likely does not apply to you. Many Philly residents who are on parole or probation still get in trouble for consuming or possessing small amounts of marijuana due to the requirements of their court-ordered supervision.
If the terms of your parole or probation require you to not consume marijuana, then being caught with a small amount or consuming it can land you in legal trouble.
What is still illegal in Philly?
Philly lawmakers wanted to decrease the number of nonviolent, drug-related arrests for small amounts of cannabis — which has historically targeted Black residents. Before decriminalization, more than 300 people were arrested for marijuana offenses each month in Philly.
However, selling marijuana or possessing large amounts of it is still illegal and you can be arrested for it.
It’s still illegal to:
Have more than 30 grams of marijuana in your possession.
Travel in and out of state with any amounts of marijuana.
Drive under the influence of marijuana.
This article has been updated since it first published.