Legal Updates

Philadelphia Weed Laws


While possession of marijuana is a crime, Philadelphia has taken steps to decriminalize marijuana possession.  New District Attorney Larry Krasner has stated he will not prosecute individuals who are simply in possession of Marijuana.  Where individuals are prosecuted for Marijuana possession there is usually an allegations of sale or delivery.  This if you are in possession of a small amount of Marijuana in Philadelphia you may avoid criminal charges even if stopped by police.   You may receive something similar to a traffic ticker, and be ordered to pay a small civil fine.  There is almost no criminal penalty for simply possession of Marijuana in Philadelphia.  Please note that you may be criminally charged for possession of Marijuana, especially if the quantity suggests a purpose other than personal use (i.e., drug sales).

At a press conference, District Attorney Larry Krasner stated, “We are going to tell them, yes, drop any cases that are simply marijuana possession.”  Philadelphia has taken dramatic steps to decriminalize marijuana possession.  While weed possession without a medical exception is technically a crime, the penalty is either a program or a civil fine.  In 2010, the city of Philadelphia created the Small Amount of Marijuana (“SAM”) program.  Under the programs defendants records are cleared after paying a small fine and attending a class.  PLEASE NOTE: That if you are arrested with more than ten grams of Marijuana you may be prosecuted for delivery.  This is a far more serious offense, and will may result in felony criminal charges being levied against you.  More dramatic changes have been taken since then.

Philadelphia City Council is also taking proactive steps to legalize Marijuana within city limits.  City council passed a local ordinance that calls for the defendant to pay a $25 fine for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana and a $100 fine if the defendant was caught by police smoking marijuana in public. The ordinance does not apply to the sale of marijuana or to possession of more than 30 grams. However, this recent ordinance has led to a major decrease in the number of criminal marijuana prosecutions in Philadelphia.  Thus, if you carry a couple grams of Marijuana in your bag, and are stopped and searched by police, you may not even be arrested.  Please note that the decision to prosecute rests on a variety of factors, and you could be arrested and subject to criminal liability. 


Possession of Marijuana is still technically illegal in Pennsylvania with exceptions.  The use, sale, and possession of all forms of cannabis in the United States is also illegal under federal law with the exception of FDA-approved research programs.  These programs have expanded in recent years.  But the exceptions are broadening.  Philadelphia is opening marijuana dispensaries for sale of Marijuana for medicinal purposes.  This is a booming industry that is sure to grow in coming years.  Smoking Marijuana has never been more socially acceptable, and yet it technically remains a crime.  Not unlike alcohol and prohibition in the 1920’s, a huge percentage of the population disregards Philly weeds laws, and the laws themselves are not strictly enforced where small quantities are involved.  W

It is important to note that since possession of Marijuana is technically illegal, it may be used as a pretext to search your belongings for other drugs, or to investigate for other crimes.  The odor of Marijuana by itself is sufficient to establish probable cause for police to search a car or personal property in most situations.  You may be stopped for Marijuana possession and then arrested for another crime.  The police need reasonable suspicion or probable cause of criminal activity before they can stop you.  The odor of Marijuana is a legal basis to investigate.

Philadelphia Weed Lawyer Mark D. Copoulos


The People of the United States want Marijuana legalized.  According to a Franklin & Marshall survey, 56 percent of respondents want to legalize the drug.  Astonishingly, 75 percent of independent voters are in favor of legalization.  65 percent of Democrats favor legalization, with 44 percent of Republicans supporting it.  According to FM the sample error is +/- 4.9 percentage points.

There is an argument the entire country is slowly moving towards decriminalization.  Eight states and the District of Columbia have eliminated penalties for personal use and possession of small amounts of pot, while 19 states have decriminalized the drug by reducing punishments.  Philadelphia Weed Laws have embraced this trend by making most penalties civil in nature, rather than criminal.  Please note civil penalties generally apply where a small amount of Marijuana is involved.

Pennsylvania is moving towards decriminalization, albeit more slowly than Philadelphia.  In April 2016, the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted the Medical Marijuana Act .  The Act provides weed access for patients suffering from certain serious medical conditions. The individuals must have a physician’s certification and the medical marijuana is then distributed in pill, oil, liquid or other similar forms. Medical dispensaries have been approved to grow and process Marijuana.  Dispensaries are opening in Philadelphia, PA.  While less criminal charges are being brought, the DA is still aggressively prosecuting some Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver Marijuana charges.  If you have been charged with Possession with Intent to Deliver Marijuana or related charges, contact the Law Office of Mark D. Copoulos.  Our Philadelphia drug crime lawyers can assist you in preparing a defense.  You may be able to litigate a motion to suppress, or utilize other constitutional safeguards to protect your rights and freedoms.


While Philadelphia is not prosecuting as many marijuana cases as bygone years, the counties and surrounding areas continue to aggressively prosecute defendants with Possession With Intent to Deliver Weed.  Additionally, defendants charged with possession of large amounts of Marijuana, hashish, or concentrated THC are still aggressively prosecuted within the confines of Philadelphia, PA.  The Office of the District Attorney treats a recreational personal user much differently than an individual with an illegal business operation.  Accordingly, if you are facing Marijuana charges take them seriously and contact our Philadelphia drug crimes lawyers for a free consultation of your legal matter.

Many Weed cases can still be resolved with non-conviction dispositions such as Philadelphia Drug Treatment Court, Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, Accelerated Misdemeanor Program and others.  The non-violent nature of these offenses lends themselves to non-prison and rehabilitative dispositions.  If do not want to take a program, you may consider a motion to suppress, or try the case and argue the government cannot prove actual or constructive possession beyond a reasonable doubt.  Successful litigation of any of these trial issues may result in a full acquittal.  If you are acquitted then you can file an expungement, and records of your arrest will be sealed.  Contact Mark D. Copoulos, Esquire for a free no-obligation consultation to discuss your options.