What are Virginia’s laws regarding marijuana?

Virginia recently passed a law that narrowly approves medical marijuana use for some people, but the substance largely remains illegal.

A recent poll indicates that the majority of people in Virginia support the legalization of medical marijuana. The Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released earlier this year found that 86 percent of voters are in favor of making the substance legal for medical purposes. Further, 54 percent said they would be in favor of legalizing marijuana recreationally.

As more and more states as making marijuana legal in some form, it is important for people in Virginia to understand the laws and consequences of activity surrounding it. Currently, the state does not permit the use of marijuana in any form for nearly all people.

Possession and sale

Under Virginia law, possession of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor charge. People who are caught with the drug may face jail time of up to 30 days as well as a $500 fine for their first offense, and $2,500.00 in jail for a second or subsequent offense. Further, an individual may suffer license suspension.

Someone who is accused of selling marijuana faces steeper penalties. Having just half an ounce or less is considered a misdemeanor, but anything more than that is treated as a felony. The sale of more than 5 pounds of marijuana can carry up to 30 years in jail. The consequences can be heightened if the sale occurred within 1,000 feet of a school or if the sale was made to a minor, or if it is a second or subsequent offense.

There are still federal laws in place that state marijuana possession, sale and cultivation is illegal. Someone facing federal charges will face stricter penalties than those tried at the state level.

Medical exemptions

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, Virginia did pass a law earlier this year that gives some protection to people who use marijuana medicinally. HB 1445 provides a defense for people who fit the following requirements:

  • They must have intractable epilepsy.
  • The marijuana extract must have no more than 5 percent THC.
  • The marijuana extract must have at least 15 percent of cannabidiol or THC-A.

It is important to point out that even when someone fits this description, he or she may still be arrested. As the MPP notes, the person could still have to spend time in jail and go to trial on drug charges.

Other consequences

In addition to criminal penalties, someone who has been convicted of a drug crime in Virginia may have difficulty finding employment or housing. Even arrests can remain on a criminal record for an extended period of time, creating roadblocks to the defendant's successful future.

It is imperative that people in Virginia remain aware of how the state addresses marijuana use and possession. Anyone who has questions about this matter should consult with an attorney.