April 21st, 2022

Legal Marijuana in NJ: How Does it Affect PA Residents?

Recreational marijuana became legal in the Garden State on April 21, 2022.  Adults, 21 years or older, can now purchase up to 1 ounce of dried flower; 5 grams of concentrates, resins, or oils; 1000 mg of ingestible products (like gummies); or a combination of these three forms of cannabis in a single transaction.  New Jersey medical marijuana patients can still receive cannabis orders from their doctor of up to 3 ounces for every 30-day period, filled at a state-licensed Alternative Treatment Center.

Pennsylvania residents can purchase recreational marijuana if they visit the Garden State.  The closest New Jersey dispensary to the Lehigh Valley is located in Phillipsburg.  But, for those planning to partake, you should know that any recreational marijuana must be consumed in New Jersey.  It is illegal to transport marijuana over state lines.

Pennsylvania’s Marijuana Possession Laws

Pennsylvania has not legalized recreational marijuana and the possession of even a small amount of marijuana (defined as 30 grams or less) is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine, or both.  Some jurisdictions in Pennsylvania, including the City of Bethlehem, have voted to decriminalize the possession of a small amount of marijuana.  In those limited jurisdictions, individuals can be cited under an ordinance rather than the state law, often at the discretion of local law enforcement.

Pennsylvania has a medical marijuana program.  Under this law, Pennsylvania residents who have a qualifying “serious medical condition” as certified by an approved physician can obtain an ID card to purchase medical marijuana at a dispensary.  Serious medical conditions include anxiety disorders, cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, MS, and Parkinson’s disease, among others.  Patients can purchase up to a 90-day supply of medical marijuana, which includes cannabis-infused pills, oils, topical ointments, tinctures, liquids, and dry leaf.  If you have a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania, federal law prohibits you from owning or purchasing a firearm.

Pennsylvania’s Marijuana DUI Laws

A person who consumes marijuana in New Jersey and drives back into the Commonwealth risks a DUI conviction.  Pennsylvania criminalizes driving while marijuana or any of its metabolites are present in your blood.  Inactive (non-psychoactive) metabolites of marijuana are detectable in a person’s blood weeks after cannabis is consumed.  So, even if you’re not driving while high, you could be found guilty of a DUI offense in Pennsylvania.

There is no exception under Pennsylvania’s DUI law for medical marijuana patients.  If you have a medical marijuana card in the Commonwealth, the presence of marijuana or one of its metabolites while driving could result in a DUI conviction.  Recent attempts to amend the DUI statute to provide legal limits for medical marijuana patients have stalled in the Pennsylvania legislature.

Outlook on Marijuana Legalization in Pennsylvania

Expect marijuana legalization to be front and center in Pennsylvania’s next election cycle.  Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman has made marijuana legalization a cornerstone of his bid for the Commonwealth’s open U.S. Senate seat.  In February 2022, the Pennsylvania legislature held its first hearings to discuss the topic of recreational marijuana.  Recent surveys indicate that a majority of Pennsylvania voters support legalizing recreational marijuana.


Sara Moyer is an associate attorney at Gross McGinley and practices with the Criminal Defense, Medical Malpractice Defense, and Litigation Teams.