As of July 1, marijuana became legal in the Commonwealth of Virginia. But confusion about the law remains. So, before you go out and celebrate the move by Gov. Ralph Northam, which upon his signature April 7, made Virginia the first Southern state to legalize marijuana, do your homework. And remember, the new law only applies to adults in Virginia, 21 years and older.
- Having a maximum of an ounce of marijuana for personal use
- Using marijuana while in a private residence. However, Virginia law states that there is nothing prohibiting the owner of a private residence from restricting marijuana use. This means, if you live in an apartment owned by someone else, they could restrict you from using it in your apartment.
- Growing up to four marijuana plants per household as long as the plant isn’t visible to the public, people younger than 21 years of age do not have access to them, and each plant must have a legible tag attached that includes the person’s name, driver’s license or ID number
- “Adult sharing,” which means you can transfer an ounce or less of marijuana between people who are 21-year-old or older as long as it is given as a gift and is not being sold to another person
What remains illegal? What are the repercussions?
- Having more than an ounce of marijuana at a time
If you are found guilty of possessing more than an ounce but not more than a pound of marijuana, you are subject to a civil penalty of no more than $25.
If you are found guilty of possessing more than a pound of marijuana, you’re subject to a felony charge.
- If you are under the age of 21, you are not allowed to consume, purchase or possess marijuana, or attempt to consume, purchase or possess marijuana.
- Distributing or selling marijuana
- Possessing any amount of marijuana with the intent to distribute or sell it
- Using marijuana while operating or riding in a motor vehicle
- Using marijuana while operating a school bus, a motor vehicle transporting passengers for hire (i.e. Uber, Lyft or a taxi) or a commercial vehicle
- Possessing marijuana on school grounds
When will marijuana sales begin in Virginia?
Commercial sales of marijuana in Virginia are all dependent on the 2022 General Assembly reenacting specific regulatory sections of the bill, according to Virginia officials.
Once that’s approved, retail sales can begin on January 1, 2024, but details remain fuzzy until 2022.
What about those who were incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses?
Northam accelerated the legalization process as he wanted to end the disproportionate treatment of people of color who are incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses. The bill allows for the resentencing of individuals currently incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses. This means that these individuals are able to have a hearing before the court that originally sentenced them and legal counsel will be provided for those who need it. Similar to marijuana sales, the portion of the bill regarding people incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses must also be reenacted by the 2022 General Assembly.
Where does Virginia go from here with the marijuana legalization?
In 2022, the General Assembly needs to revisit the regulatory sections of the bill. It must be approved again by the 2022 General Assembly before it can become law. If the bill is reenacted in 2022, Virginia officials said the legal sale of marijuana to adults 21 and older can begin on January 1, 2024.