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Sen. Street’s website allows PA residents to show their support for SB846 by signing on as a “citizen co-sponsor.”


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How Did Cannabis Become the World's Most Controversial Plant? From the History Channel


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420 and Beyond — What’s the Deal with Weed in PA?

Marijuana’s official holiday is approaching. How you can celebrate, get a medical marijuana card, and help PA join its neighbors in legalizing recreational pot

420 and Beyond — What’s the Deal with Weed in PA?

Marijuana’s official holiday is approaching. How you can celebrate, get a medical marijuana card, and help PA join its neighbors in legalizing recreational pot

The coming 420 holiday is yet another reminder: Pennsylvania is super behind when it comes to legalizing recreational marijuana. Most of our neighbors — New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, everyone except West Virginia — have done so. What’s more, nearly two-thirds of registered voters in PA — 63 percent — are pro legalization.

Governor Shapiro supports it. So do most Democrats — especially local legislators — and even some vocal Republicans in Harrisburg. What’s the current status? We catch you up below, offer ways you can weigh in, share info about qualifying for a medical marijuana card (it’s easier than you think), and lay out how to observe 420, 2024, in Philadelphia.

Fun things to do on 420, 2024

This year, 4/20 falls not only on a Saturday — but also in a year where access to marijuana, medical or not, continues to expand. If weed’s your thing, here are things to do in Philly on 4/20/24.

Celebrate with baked goods, 8am to 9pm

Cake Life wares

Fishtown’s Cake Life Bake Shop is not putting cannabis in their cookies. They are, however, baking sugar cookies in the shape of marijuana leaves, smushing chocolate chip, double chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies into one big smash cookie, serving up jalapeno popper croissants, and making up couch-lock combo boxes so you can satisfy your munchies with all of the above. 1306 Frankford Avenue

Go to a Fishtown block party, noon to 6pm


Photo courtesy of Evil Genius.

Evil Genius brewery closes the street outside its taproom to traffic in order to fete its latest release, the Pineapple Express-theme hazy IPA “The Apex of The Vortex of Joint Engineering.” Also happening: movies, including the aforementioned Harold & Kumar and Dude, Where’s My Car?, live music, vendors, and the Machine Munchies food truck — the ultimate 4/20 block party. Free to enter; pay-as-you-go. 1700 N. Front Street

Laugh at stoned comedians, 4:20pm

Since April 20, 2015, Sansom Street’s Helium Comedy Club has hosted Weeding Out the Stoned, a game show, of sorts, where all players but one are stoned — and the audience has to figure out who’s sober. Expect mind games, sobriety tests, and prizes for successful audience members. $22-$30. 2031 Sansom Street

Watch a local film about 420, 4:20 to 6:30pm

Two queer Philly filmmakers are behind the premiere of potentially the next great stoner movie. High and Dry follows a friend duo out to partake in the holiest day of the year for pot smokers — during a local pot shortage. $12. Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American Street

How to get a medical marijuana card

WeHoCity, Creative Commons

Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program has been operating since 2016 and offers patients with specific medical and mental health conditions a medical card that allows them to purchase marijuana in a variety of forms at dispensaries across the state. You won’t find Double Baked Cake Batter Cheesecake edibles or Levia Seltzers, but you can purchase troches, RSO syringes, tinctures, vapes and yes, flower, from producers like The Lab and Cresco Cannabis. All products are curated by strain, strength, and in-depth chemical analysis so you generally know what to expect and what symptoms they’re best for.

Want to get a medical marijuana (MMJ) card in PA? Here’s a step-by-step how-to guide.

  1. Even if you already partake — whether it’s therapeutic, for pleasure, or both — it’s a good idea to start with your primary care physician (PCP). If they don’t already know about your usage, they ought to, so they can monitor any adverse effects or maybe even head you off at the pass if there’s a pressing medical issue that should steer you away from marijuana.
  2. Your PCP will also be able to counsel you on the list of qualifying conditions that would make you eligible for the program.
  3. Once you have the go-ahead, register here as a patient (or caregiver!) with the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program to begin the process. This part is free. You’ll need to provide your Pennsylvania ID or driver’s license.
  4. If your PCP is one of these participants in the program, they’ll be able to certify that you qualify. If your PCP is not part of the program, you’ll need to find a doctor who is.
  5. Be prepared to sign a release for your medical records. Most insurance plans do not cover this visit, and costs are generally in the $100 to $300 range, depending on the practice and location. However, many providers offer a discount for those on medical assistance.
  6. Once you have been certified, you may order your card through the program portal. The fee is currently $50, but for those on medical assistance — Medicaid, PACE/PACENET, CHIP, SNAP or WIC — you can qualify for a low-or-no-cost card.
  7. Wait 10 to 14 days to receive your card in the mail (it kind of looks like a driver’s license or state ID, and even uses the same photo, so try to avoid mixing them up!), you can visit a dispensary.
  8. There’s a handy Google Maps list of dispensaries here.
  9. Renew the card yearly with an appointment with a certified MMJ doctor and by paying a renewal fee to the state.

Where legalizing recreational marijuana stands in PA

PA Governor Josh Shapiro a White man with short brown hair, glasses, wearing a blue suit, stands at a podium in front of the US flag, pointing a finger and giving his budget address.
Josh Shapiro at his 2024 budget address in Harrisburg, PA. Photo by Commonwealth Media.

It’s only a matter of time … is what Pennsylvanians have been saying for a few years now, while watching four out of five of our next-door-neighbor states legalize recreational pot. New York and New Jersey did it in 2021. Delaware, Maryland and Ohio follow suit in 2023.

Governor Josh Shapiro, like his Democratic predecessor Tom Wolf, supports legalization. Shapiro included the issue in his $48.3 billion budget address, saying he doesn’t want PA to miss out on the revenue other states are enjoying — potentially $250 million per year within five years — and expressing a desire to undo the harm criminalization has caused, especially to Black and Brown Pennsylvanians.

Legislation-wise, things are ready to go in Harrisburg. Sen. Dan Laughlin (Rep., Erie) introduced a pretty basic SB846 in July 2023, with strong support from Sharif Street (Dem., Philadelphia). Philadelphia Democrat Amen Brown followed suit in February 2024 with an identical HB2210.

Both bills allow for the expungement of records of people arrested for non-violent marijuana offenses since 1972. They also establish a Cannabis Regulatory Control Board to process dispensary applications and permits. Both establish a taxation system.

Although the issue enjoys bipartisan support, it hasn’t made it to a vote. But it could any day: Democrats hold a one-seat majority in the PA House. Spotlight PA reported in the GOP-dominated Senate, “the state senator who controls a key committee supports legalization, and the lawmaker in charge of setting the chamber’s agenda has expressed a willingness to explore the topic … ”

Lest you think all this is just talk, just last week, a House subcommittee met to discuss how to incorporate social equity and restorative justice into a prospective recreational marijuana economy.

Lest you think it’ll happen without a fight, opponents in Harrisburg have expressed concerns over potency and worry that legalization could lead to an increase in car accidents, addiction and other unwanted (and expensive) outcomes.

Have an opinion about legalization? Contact your representatives to let them know.


Photo by Esteban López on Unsplash

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