Approximately 10 U.S. states have passed laws allowing for the recreational use of marijuana. Pennsylvania has not implemented such measures; however, laws allowing for medicinal marijuana were passed in 2016.
In 2018 in the U.S., legal sales of marijuana exceeded $10 billion and are expected to continue rising. Federal laws prohibit marijuana, as it is classified as a controlled substance. This has created conflicting laws and some challenges to those operating in the industry in many states. One key problem is that marijuana businesses are unable to use the traditional banking system due to federal law; therefore, they are in most cases unable to issue checks, make deposits, and process payment with credit cards.
Small Amount of Marijuana (SAM) Program
Individuals who have been arrested for possession of fewer than 30 grams of marijuana may be eligible for the SAM program. It is among approximately 10 various diversionary or alternative sentencing programs now implemented by the administration in the Philadelphia courts. Others include the DUI Treatment Court, the Intermediate Punishment Program, Accelerated Misdemeanor Program, and more.
The District Attorney's Office determines whether a defendant is suitable for being admitted. The criminal proceedings in the case are halted and the defendant does not enter a plea to these charge(s). The status will remain as pending in the pre-trial phase.
Upon acceptance to SAM, defendants must complete an educational session that relates to criminal activity. This class is held on a Saturday each month at the Criminal Justice Center. Those attending must bring a money order for $200 that covers the programming costs.
Those who are currently on community supervision (probation) are eligible for acceptance. Entering the SAM program is not treated as a violation of the conditions of probation; however, these individuals should discuss this with their probation officer. Offenders already on probation that was not submitting to regular drug screening (testing) may be ordered to do so.
Those who complete the class, pay the applicable $200 fee and satisfy any court costs will not be required to return for a court appearance. The District Attorney will then have the charges expunged (withdrawn).
New Pennsylvania Expungement Laws for Past Offenses
What about those with past minor convictions involving marijuana possession? State officials have recently implemented “clean slate” provisions. The courts are in the process of sealing conviction records of second and third-degree misdemeanors and summary offenses. Governor Tom Wolf explained that the legislative intent is to provide relief from potential barriers to “education, housing, and health care.”
Importance of Retaining Experienced Legal Counsel
Those facing current charges or seeking to expunge past criminal convictions are encouraged to consult with a seasoned criminal defense attorney. There are a host of provisions that are potentially confusing and the laws are in a state of flux. For example, the “clean slate” legislation does not allow those with two first-degree misdemeanors or four second-degree misdemeanor convictions to be eligible for expungement.
Defense Lawyer for Criminal Matters in Philadelphia
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has a lengthy track record of obtaining positive outcomes for clients in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania. He has a firm understanding of the volatile laws relating to drug-offenses and will provide aggressive representation. Contact the office for a case consultation today at (215) 535-5353.