What are Virginia’s laws regarding marijuana?
Public opinion of drug use has changed rapidly over the past few years. Although Virginia used to have very harsh restrictions on the use of marijuana, the state became one of the first in the South to decriminalize certain amounts of recreational cannabis.
Governor Northam introduced two bills – House Bill 2312 and Senate Bill 1406 – in early 2021. The General Assembly approved the bills on April 7. Under the new laws, it is now legal to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana in the state of Virginia.
Possession And Sale
Granted, certain limitations and penalties remain in place. As Virginia’s laws continue to evolve, and as more and more states make marijuana legal in some form, it is important for residents to understand the regulations and consequences surrounding it.
• Possession of marijuana:
The recently instated laws allow Virginia residents over the age of 21 to legally possess one ounce or less of marijuana. The possession of one ounce to one pound, however, is a civil violation that typically results in a fine of $25. It is a criminal felony offense to own more than one pound of marijuana, and the sentence for this can be a $250,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.
• Cultivating plants:
It is legal for adults 21 years or older to cultivate up to four marijuana plants without incurring a penalty. Cultivating five to 10 plants, though, is a civil violation that carries a $25 fee. The cultivation of more than 10 plants is a misdemeanor criminal charge, while 50 or more is a felony.
• Distribution and sale:
Virginia courts do not consider the possession of a large quantity of cannabis as evidence of an intent to sell. The state considers the sale or distribution of up to one ounce of marijuana a misdemeanor charge. The penalties are up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Distributing anything more than one ounce of marijuana is a felony offense. What’s more, the distribution of more than five pounds of marijuana has a sentence of at least five years in prison. The most severe distribution-related crime – the distribution of more than 100 kg, or 220 lbs, of marijuana leads to an automatic sentence of 20 years to life.
Keep in mind that while Virginia has legalized marijuana in some respects, there are still federal laws in place that criminalize marijuana possession, sale and cultivation. Someone facing federal charges will face stricter penalties than those charged and tried at the state level.
Patients who have a medical condition might wonder whether they can use cannabis as a medical remedy. In Virginia, anyone with a diagnosed illness, whose medical practitioner determines they could benefit from the use of marijuana may do so, with certain restrictions. State-approved dispensaries may dispense up to four ounces of medicinal marijuana to a patient every 30 days.
It is important to point out that even when someone fits the criteria for the use of medical marijuana, they may still be arrested. The person could still have to spend time in jail and go to trial for drug charges.
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 on their own—without a conviction—can remain on a person’s criminal record for an extended period, creating roadblocks to a 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 experienced criminal defense attorney.