Although Pennsylvania has begun to pass and implement medical marijuana laws across the state, it is still illegal to possess marijuana for personal use. However, Philadelphia has taken steps to limit the impact of possession charges in cases involving only a small amount of marijuana. If you were recently arrested for possessing marijuana and want to learn more about these options and possible defenses, it is critical to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advise you.
The Small Amount of Marijuana Program
Recognizing that more and more people were being arrested for, charged with, and convicted of possessing extremely small amounts of marijuana, Philadelphia created the Small Amount of Marijuana (SAM) program. Under the terms of this program, those who are caught possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana can avoid jail time by paying a fine and completing community service hours. Defendants who comply with these terms can then have their charges dismissed. However, if a person does not complete the required number of hours or fails to pay his or her fine, the prosecutor can proceed with the case, which could result in a conviction. The program has proved extremely successful in helping defendants caught with only minor amounts of marijuana avoid the court fees, jail time, and mandatory six month driver’s license suspension that go along with a conviction for possession of marijuana.
Philadelphia’s city council also recently passed a local law that allows police to issue civil citations to those found with less than 30 grams of marijuana in their possession rather than arresting them and charging them with a misdemeanor. Instead, the person will only be required to pay a $25 fine, or if he or she was seen smoking marijuana in public, a $100 fine. This allows people to avoid the creation of a criminal record that could later show up on background checks, which in turn could make it difficult to secure employment or find housing. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the local ordinance does not apply to cases that involve the sale of marijuana or the possession of more than 30 grams. In fact, a person caught with even 31 grams of marijuana could be charged with an ungraded misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and hefty fines. Finally, it is still considered a felony offense to grow even a single marijuana plant.
Contact an Experienced Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Although Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia in particular, have taken great pains to cut down on arrests for the possession of small amounts of marijuana, residents are still charged on a regular basis. Having a drug possession charge on your record can have far-reaching consequences. If you were recently charged with possessing marijuana, please contact van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn, and Levin at 215-515-6892 today to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can evaluate your case. A member of our legal team can also be reached via live chat or email.