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What are the legal forms of consumption and where is it legal to consume medical marijuana?

The Permitted forms of medical marijuana in PA

Medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is approved for sale in the following forms:

  • Pill

  • Oils

  • Topical forms

  • Tincture

  • Liquid

  • A form medically appropriate for vaporization, including dry leaf

It is important to keep in mind that combustion or smoking of medical marijuana is illegal. Medical marijuana patients are only permitted to consume the above forms of medical marijuana and dry leaf must be consumed by vaping under law. 

It remains a legal gray area under state law if you are caught smoking medical marijuana in a place where it is otherwise not illegal to consume MMJ what exactly the penalty is. A safe way to avoid this is to always stick to the approved forms of consumption and always vape medical marijuana dry leaf.

Where are patients allowed to use medical marijuana?

As a medical marijuana patient consuming a legal form of product it is not expressly defined within PA medical marijuana laws where you are prohibited to use medical marijuana. The law provides that employers can prohibit medical marijuana consumption at their workplace and doing so could subject you to adverse employment actions. Also, there are no protections in place for operating a vehicle under the influence of medical marijuana so consuming MMJ and driving could subject patients to charges under DUI law.

While some may tell you that as a patient you are only permitted to consume medical marijuana in your own privately owned residence there is nothing within the law that currently states this. Therefore it can be assumed that you are permitted to use medical marijuana in public places where vaping is permitted or if you are consuming MMJ orally. You are however, prohibited from using medical marijuana on federal lands as marijuana remains federally illegal and you may be prohibited from consuming medical marijuana on private property where the owner has established that it is expressly prohibited.

Medical Marijuana and Rental Properties

While patients are protected to legally consume medical marijuana inside a private residence that they own themselves, there are no protections for patients who rent housing. This is another instance where the federal illegality of marijuana sustains the right for private landlords to prohibit cannabis use on their property. When deciding whether you are allowed to consume MMJ in your rented property you should consult your lease.

There may be language that expressly prohibits the use of medical marijuana specifically but it's more standard to see language that generally prohibits the use of illegal drugs on the property. This is pretty standard in rental agreements and can create another legal gray area for patients since it is completely legal for patients to possess and consume medical marijuana at the state level but still federally illegal. It is possible that a landlord would be willing to specifically accommodate medical marijuana use on the property, however, landlords have no legal obligation to grant a request to use medical marijuana on their property and can deny this right to tenants by completely prohibiting it in the rental agreement.

It’s important to note that there is no way for a landlord to know that anyone is a registered medical marijuana patient as patient confidentiality is protected under state law so it is always at an individual’s own discretion to disclose their status as a medical marijuana patient to anyone.

Medical Marijuana and Public Housing

Similar to having a medical marijuana card and owning a firearm, having your card and living in federally subsidized public housing is another issue where the disconnect between state and federal law causes issues for PA MMJ patients. Guidance issued from The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) specifically states that any federally assisted housing is required to deny residence to any member that is using a controlled substance, and that includes marijuana, which is still considered a Schedule I substance under federal law.

As recently as November of 2021, HUD issued a statement saying it was required to remain consistent with federal law on marijuana use and absent a change in federal law, HUD does not have the discretion to admit users of marijuana, including medical marijuana, to the Public Housing program.They did specifically note that housing authorities and Section 8 property managers do have the authority to when it is appropriate to evict tenants.

While this has become a nationwide issue and seen federal legislation introduced on the topic of reforming these laws, a case in Indiana County, Pennsylvania became a flashpoint for the issue. In 2018, Mary Cease, a Navy Veteran, was denied access to public housing for her medical marijuana use as she attempted to escape an abusive spouse. She challenged the denial and after years of litigation the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled in her favor in 2021 and has required the county housing authority to establish rules and guidance for “when and on what basis admission is prohibited for an applicant legally using medical marijuana pursuant to a valid Medical Marijuana Identification Card.” 

This is a victory in this specific case, but housing authorities can continue to operate on federal law and prohibit the use of medical marjuana in public housing across the country.

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