New Law — Possessing Marijuana ≠ License Suspension

It’s About Time — Possessing Marijuana ≠ License Suspension (after a new Pennsylvania law goes into effect in April, 2019) 

For years, a conviction for possessing marijuana (or any other illegal drug) resulted in a license suspension. After a new law goes into effect, this will no longer be the case. The reaction of many people has been “It’s about time!”

On October 27, 2018, Governor Wolf signed into law a bill that will eliminate the automatic license suspension for people convicted of possession of a controlled substance. This new law will take effect after 180 days (that is, in late April of 2019). The new law will also eliminate 90-day license suspension for underage drinking and false identification offenses.

For years, many people had argued that the current law was unfair and made it difficult for people to continue working and caring for their families.

Prior to this new law, a possession offense in Pennsylvania resulted in a six-month license suspension. A second possession offense resulted in a one-year suspension; a third or subsequent offense resulted in a two-year suspension.

The apparent disconnect between possessing marijuana (or any other drug) and suspending a person’s driving license had been challenged in Pennsylvania state courts without success. 

However on January 10, 2018, Equal Justice Under Law (“EJUL”), a civil rights nonprofit organization, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit action asserting that these license suspensions are unconstitutional and unfair. EJUL asserted that these license suspension are “irrational, counterproductive, and discriminatory” and “make successful post-conviction rehabilitation” — such as maintaining employment and performing the everyday tasks of life — “a near impossibility.”

This lawsuit clearly (and successfully) jump-started the effort to eliminate these license suspensions. 

This change will definitely help minor drug possession offenders move on from their convictions and so that they can strive to be productive citizens and positive contributors to society.

About the Author

Henry Hilles