Understanding the State College Borough marijuana ordinance

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - State College Borough Council approved an ordinance (2078) that gives State College police officers the option to charge an individual with a summary offense instead of a misdemeanor for possession of a small amount of marijuana. The ordinance goes into effect in September.

On campus, however, University police must still follow federal and state laws that consider marijuana use and possession a misdemeanor.

Under the State College Borough ordinance, police can charge a student in possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana with a summary offense that carries a fine of $250. They can also charge a student caught using marijuana a summary offense that carries a fine of $350.

While the ordinance allows borough police the flexibility to bring a lesser charge, it does not legalize marijuana. Under Pennsylvania State Law, possession of a small amount of marijuana is illegal and can be charged as a misdemeanor. State College police officers will still have the option to charge a student with a misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. A convicted individual will also face driver’s license suspension, a criminal record and the risk of losing federal student aid.

In addition, the new ordinance does not cover paraphernalia, which still carries a misdemeanor charge. Paraphernalia can include any object used to ingest, store or use marijuana. Possession of drug paraphernalia is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. 

As previously indicated, the State College Borough ordinance does not change the way Penn State Police or police in surrounding municipalities will be handling drug offenses. The Penn State Police have confirmed that they will not enforce the ordinance.

Because Penn State receives state and federal funding, the University is mandated to enforce state and federal laws. University policy prohibits the use or possession of marijuana in any amount on campus. This policy also prohibits the use or possession of medical marijuana. Although Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act went into effect on May 17, marijuana in any form remains illegal under federal law.

Students using or possessing marijuana on- or off-campus also may be subject to disciplinary sanctions from the Office of Student Conduct. A violation of the Student Code of Conduct can be brought forward. Code of Conduct sanctions are separate from any legal charges and can be generated whether a student receives a summary offense, or state or federal charges. 

Penn State Student Legal Services, a unit of Student Affairs, has posted FAQs on its website to provide students with more information on the ordinance. For more information on the Student Code of Conduct, visit the Office of Student Conduct’s Website

Last Updated April 19, 2017