Pennsylvania Drug Laws

Pennsylvania Drug Laws

Pennsylvania has a lower drug-using population than the majority of the United States, but the rate of drug-induced deaths annually is higher than the national average.

Taking a firm stance against drug abuse, the state’s government has employed a strict series of penalties, including mandatory minimum sentencing for even first time drug users.

Sentences And Penalties

In Pennsylvania, it is unlawful to be in possession of any controlled substance. Valid prescriptions and orders from physicians are generally credible reasons to carry a controlled substance, but otherwise, you can be charged with possession.

The severity of the sentence depends not only on the type of drug, but also the amount of the drug. For instance, possession of marijuana in an amount less than 30 grams is considered an ungraded misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to 30 days in prison and/or a penalty fine of $500.

More than 30 grams is also considered a misdemeanor, carrying a sentence of up to a year in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Any other kind of narcotic, or an amount of marijuana that qualifies as an intent to sell, will be considered a felony in Pennsylvania, and can carry a sentence of 15 years of prison and/or up to a $250,000 fine. The amount of the fine is typically dependent on the assets and profits resulting from the initial drug-related activity.

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

Pennsylvania observes a series of drug laws focused on ensuring mandatory minimum sentencing for offenders. A kind of blanket form of sentencing, the goal of the laws is to restrict the prevalence of drug abuse by imposing a firmer series of punishments.

However, the laws are controversial for the increased burden that they put on the prison system, and are currently being reviewed for their effectiveness and their fiscal impact on the state.

Employment Drug Testing

Currently, there is no formally passed state law in Pennsylvania allowing or restricting drug testing in the workplace. Employers, if they have an explicitly written drug testing policy, may administer randomized drug tests or tests based on reasonable suspicion so long as they do not violate the employees’ other rights.

Also, employees who have lost their jobs due to intoxication may not qualify for unemployment benefits if their employer proves their substance abuse through such a test.

Rehabilitation Centers And Treatment Opportunities

Like many states, Pennsylvania directs funding toward both preventative programs and treatment options. Pennsylvania has implemented a progressive anti-drug media campaign directed toward children and young adults, and focuses on providing information to deter the use of drugs. Pennsylvania’s Drug Free Communities (DFC) program also targets high-risk communities to reduce drug use among youth.

Pennsylvania’s drug laws may play a part in the state’s slightly lower-than-average drug abuse statistics, but its prisons are gradually filling with first-time offenders caught in the state’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws. The state’s efforts toward drug prevention have been more or less effective, but the legal ramifications of its drug penalties are also creating controversy for the financial burden they present.

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