July 1st is quickly approaching, and many Virginians have questions regarding the legalization of marijuana. Below, I’ve broken down what’s legal, illegal, and answer some frequently-asked questions.
What is legal on July 1, 2021, for marijuana in Virginia?
For all marijuana laws, adults must be at least 21 years of age to purchase, possess or consume any marijuana and/or cannabis products.
Adults are allowed to possess up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use.
Generally, adults are allowed to use marijuana in private residences. The owner of the private residence can still prohibit use on their own property, if they wish.
Adults are allowed to grow up to four plants per household (not per person), according to specific requirements, which I have broken down, below:
- Growers must ensure that no plant is visible from a public way.
- Growers must make precautions to prevent unauthorized access by persons younger than 21 years of age.
- Growers must attach a tag to each plant that includes the person’s name, driver’s license or ID number, and a notation that the marijuana plant is being grown for personal use as authorized by law.
Sharing or transferring one ounce or less of marijuana between persons who are 21 years or older is legal. But sharing does not include instances in which:
- Marijuana is given away contemporaneously with another reciprocal transaction between the same parties
- A gift of marijuana is offered or advertised in conjunction with an offer for the sale of goods or services
- A gift of marijuana is contingent upon a separate reciprocal transaction for goods or services
What is illegal for marijuana in Virginia?
- It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume, purchase, or possess marijuana.
- It is illegal for anyone to possess more than one ounce of marijuana.
- Individuals found guilty of possessing more than one ounce, but not more than one pound of marijuana are subject to a civil penalty of $25.
- Individuals found guilty of possessing more than one pound are subject to a felony.
- It is illegal to distribute or sell marijuana, and/or to possess any amount of marijuana with the intent to distribute or sell it.
- Virginians may not buy or sell seeds for marijuana plants, and bringing any part of the marijuana plant over state lines is still illegal.
- This prohibition applies equally to businesses that are not permitted to sell, “gift,” or in any other way distribute marijuana.
- Existing safety measures remain in place, including prohibiting use of marijuana while driving a motor vehicle or while being a passenger in a motor vehicle being driven; possessing marijuana on school grounds, while operating a school bus, in a motor vehicle transporting passengers for hire, or in a commercial vehicle.
When will Virginia marijuana sales begin?
It will be illegal to sell marijuana prior to January 1, 2024. In the meantime, after July 1, Virginia will create the Cannabis Control Authority, which will:
- Work on hiring staff, implementing equity rules and write regulations.
- The regulations that the Cannabis Control Authority creates still needs to pass the General Assembly in 2022.
- The Authority will not begin accepting applications for businesses until 2023.
Is there a way to obtain marijuana legally?
Yes. The state of Virginia has a medical marijuana program open to qualified residents. There are a handful of dispensaries in the state, which are run by licensed providers. Patients may acquire a maximum 90-day supply of cannabis oil or tincture. Patients must bring a valid, government-issued ID, their medical cannabis card issued by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy, and a printed copy of their unexpired written certification. Patients are not allowed to bring their spouses, children or other visitors into the dispensary, unless they are registered as well.
How can I apply for a card?
You must first schedule an appointment with a licensed practitioner to evaluate your needs. Your primary care physician is a good place to start, but if they are not registered with the Board of Pharmacy for the medical cannabis program, you may find an alternate practitioner here. If you have obtained a formal certification, then you can begin the application process here. Fees do apply.
Is oil or tincture the only form of medical marijuana in Virginia?
No, SB1557 clarifies that “any formulation” (with a dose of up to 10 mg of THC) may be dispensed. While oils and tinctures are standard for the moment, patients can soon expect capsules, flower (the actual plant), sprays, creams, lozenges, patches, troches, suppositories, lollipops and inhalation products.
As with any controlled substance, be sure to never get behind the wheel or operate heavy machinery while under the influence. A better understanding of the law will help you better follow it.
How will Virginia marijuana sales promote social equity?
The legalization of cannabis creates an opportunity for Virginia to implement criminal justice reforms, promote diverse participation in the cannabis industry, and to reinvest in communities that have been disproportionally affected by marijuana prohibition. Here are some ways change will be fostered:
- On July 1, 2021, all records of misdemeanor possession with intent to distribute marijuana arrests, charges, and convictions will be automatically sealed from public view in the Virginia State Police’s systems.
- Additionally, Virginians will have the ability to petition a court to seal all other marijuana-related misdemeanors and most marijuana-related felonies. These criminal justice reforms will remove barriers for Virginians seeking employment, housing, and education.
- The law will promote diverse participation in the industry by creating a Business Equity & Diversity Support Team at the Cannabis Control Authority, which will provide technical assistance to qualified applicants, do outreach to areas disproportionally impacted by marijuana prohibition, and analyze potential barriers to entry for small, women-owned, and minority-owned businesses.
- Additionally, the law will create a loan program to provide loans to qualified social equity cannabis licensees for the purpose of promoting business ownership and economic growth by communities that have been disproportionally impacted by the prohibition of cannabis.
- The law will create the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund. This community-led fund will receive 30% of all tax profits (an estimated $26 million in the first year of sales and $128 in the fifth), which it will use to directly address the impact of economic disinvestment and disproportionate enforcement of drug laws.
How will Virginia marijuana laws promote public health?
HB2312 and SB1406 are informed by public health expertise, include prevention and education measures, and commit resources to needed health services, such as the following:
- On July 1, a Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council will be created, to advise the Cannabis Control Authority on all health-related matters.
- The bills include best practices to prevent youth access, such as banning advertising that is attractive to youth, prohibiting stores near schools, mandating warning labels, implementing child-prevention locks, and requiring public education campaigns.
- The law will also require an interagency workgroup on data collection for cannabis related public health, safety and equity measures.
- The law will allocate 25% of marijuana tax revenue to substance abuse prevention and treatment and 5% to public health programs.
Can I apply for a marijuana business license in Virginia?
It will be illegal to sell marijuana until January 1, 2024. And no interested parties may sell medical marijuana in the meantime, as Virginia’s maximum of five (one for each Virginia Department of Health service area) dispensaries have been taken. Applications to become a licensed marijuana seller in Virginia will be available, likely in 2023, after the Cannabis Control Authority creates and passes bills that lay out the foundation for marijuana sales in Virginia.
Allen & Allen will keep you updated on changes and new provisions in the laws surrounding marijuana in Virginia. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to get the latest.