- In Virginia, recreational marijuana and medical marijuana are legal. However, recreational marijuana sales have not commenced in 2024
- Adults, aged 21 and older, can purchase recreational marijuana when adult-use cannabis becomes available at dispensaries. They may also smoke marijuana in their private residences.
- It is legal to possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis in Virginia. It is a felony to possess more than one pound of marijuana in public.
- Adults, aged 21 or older, can grow up to four marijuana plants per household.
Is Marijuana Legal in Virginia?
Yes. Medicinal marijuana and adult-use marijuana are both legal in Virginia. The Virginia legislature passed a law in 2017 that allowed patients suffering from difficult conditions of epilepsy to use oil extracts from marijuana for treatment. By 2018, the legislature issued HB 1251, which allowed medical practitioners to use oil extracts from marijuana to treat any diagnosed condition or disease that they determine can be treated with the extract. There were further amendments to the law in 2019 and 2020. By 2021, Virginia had a comprehensive medical cannabis law. The legislature again passed (HB 2218/SB 1333), which allows processors of pharmaceutical products to produce and distribute marijuana products other than oil extracts of marijuana.
With the passing of HB 2312 and SB 1406 by the legislature in 2021, adult-use marijuana was also legalized in Virginia. The bill was signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam on April 21, 2021. By this law, adults aged 21 years and above are allowed to:
- Possess not more than one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana for personal consumption.
- Consume marijuana in private homes, although owners of private homes may choose to restrict the use of marijuana within their premises if they so desire.
- Grow four marijuana plants or less in a household (not per person). However, anyone who grows marijuana plants in a private home must ensure that:
- The marijuana plants are not visible to the public.
- The place where the plants are planted is not accessible to persons under 21 years old.
- They attach a tag to each plant legibly bearing the name of the person, their ID number, or driver's license. They should also attach a note that the marijuana plant is grown for personal use as authorized by the law.
- Share or transfer up to one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana, but not more, with other adults aged 21 years or older without remuneration. Marijuana sharing situations involving financial motivations are considered illegal. Among such situations include:
- Situations where marijuana is given to another person in return for another transaction between the two parties
- A gift of marijuana being advertised as compensation for the purchase of an item or patronage for a service
- A gift of marijuana to another adult aged 21 years or older to compensate for a reciprocal transaction involving goods and services
It is illegal in Virginia for anyone to grow more than four marijuana plants or sell marijuana grown in their private homes. It is also illegal for anyone to manufacture marijuana extracts from home-cultivated marijuana. Medical marijuana patients in Virginia can only purchase marijuana products from government-approved dispensaries. Virginia's Medical Cannabis Pharmaceutical Processor Program has licensed only four companies in different Health Service Areas of Virginia to cultivate, process, and sell medical marijuana to registered patients.
Despite recreational marijuana being legalized in Virginia in 2021, the sales of recreational marijuana were not scheduled to begin until January 1, 2024. The Cannabis Control Authority, a body set up to regulate the manufacturing, sales, handling, and use of marijuana in Virginia, is expected to establish its regulations by 2023. However, at the start of 2024, these regulations are still not in place.
The 2021 Republican takeover of the Virginia House led to the legislature failing to enable the reenactment clause required to establish the rules and regulations of adult-use sales in the Commonwealth. As a result, recreational cannabis is unavailable at dispensaries in Virginia in 2024. With democrats retaining the Virginia Senate and retaking the House at the November 2023 election, there is hope that the enabling clause will be passed. However, the Republican Governor, Glenn Youngkin, may refuse to sign it into law.
Virginia Marijuana Laws in 2024
Both medical marijuana and adult-use marijuana are legal in Virginia. The House of Delegates, through HB 2218, and the Senate, through SB 1333, voted in support of the use of extracts of marijuana for pharmaceutical purposes in 2021. The bill made Virginia the 34th state in the U.S. to enact a comprehensive medical cannabis law. Again, the House of Delegates voted in support of adult-use marijuana with HB 2312, and the Senate did the same with SB 1406. The signing of the bill into law by the governor in April made Virginia the 16th state in the United States and the first southern state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
- Section 18.2-251.1 of the Code of Virginia makes it lawful for anyone to have medical marijuana in their possession if they have a valid prescription from a medical doctor. The law makes it lawful for doctors and pharmacists to dispense marijuana or medical products marijuana so long as it is done in their professional practice.
- Section 4.1-1100 of the Code of Virginia, as updated in 2021, makes it lawful for persons aged 21 years and older to possess not more than one ounce (28 grams) marijuana in any public place. The violation of this provision makes a person liable to a civil penalty of not more than $25. Other than persons licensed by the government to operate a marijuana establishment, anyone having more than one pound of marijuana in their possession will be charged with a felony. Such an offense could make them liable to imprisonment terms ranging between one year to ten years and a fine of not more than $250,000.
- Section 4.1-1107 of the Code of Virginia, as updated in 2021, makes it unlawful for anyone to consume marijuana or marijuana products while driving a motor vehicle on a public road. It also makes it unlawful to consume marijuana or marijuana products while being a passenger in a motor vehicle that is being driven on a public road.
- Section 4.1-1108 of the Code of Virginia, as updated in 2021, makes it unlawful for anyone to consume or offer marijuana or marijuana products to other persons in any public place.
- Section 4.1-1109 of the Code of Virginia, as updated in 2021, makes it unlawful for anyone or organization to possess, serve, or consume marijuana or marijuana products on the premises of elementary or secondary schools during school activities.
- Section 4.1-1110 of the Code of Virginia makes it unlawful for anyone to possess or consume marijuana or marijuana products while operating a school bus and transporting children. The offense is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor.
- Section 4.1-1112 of the Code of Virginia makes it unlawful to transport marijuana or marijuana products in motor vehicles used to transport passengers. However, there may be an exemption if the marijuana is carried by a passenger transported for compensation at the regular fare that other passengers are charged.
Timeline of Сannabis Law in Virginia
The following shows how marijuana laws evolved in Virginia
- 2015: An attempt to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana. Senate Bill 686 prescribes a reduction in fines and a 30-day jail term for violations. The bill failed.
- 2017: Virginia enacts the medical marijuana law for persons with epilepsy. The law permits patients with a doctor’s certification to purchase CBD and THC-A oil.
- 2018: The state expands the medical marijuana law to include patients suffering from any diagnosed disease or condition.
- 2019: Virginia state passed legislation to permit physician assistants and nurses to issue a written medical certificate for cannabis extracts to qualifying patients. The act stipulates 10 milligrams of THC per dose.
- 2020: Governor Northam signs two bills into law. House Bill 972 and Senate Bill 2 both aim to decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana. The law prescribes a civil penalty not exceeding $25 for any violation, eliminating jail time. Also, medical marijuana dispensaries opened in Virginia, and the first sale of medical marijuana extracts began for registered patients.
- 2021: Virginia legalizes the sale and cultivation of recreational marijuana for persons 21 and above. Senate Bill 1406, signed into law, permits persons above 21 to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Also, each household may grow up to four marijuana plants.
- 2022: Governor Glenn Youngskin signed the budget bill criminalizing the possession of more than 4 ounces of marijuana. House Bill 950 creates regulations, licensing structures, and penalties for retail markets that manufacture, cultivate, and wholesale marijuana.
- 2023: Although dependent on the outcome of the General Assembly in 2022, persons interested can apply for a marijuana business license. The General Assembly failed to enable the legal requirements needed for licensing adult-use cannabis business in the state.
- 2024: Effective 2024, the public possession of marijuana, possessing cannabis on school grounds, a minor possessing marijuana, and the consumption of marijuana in a moving vehicle become prohibited conduct. The penalty for prohibited conduct includes fines and jail time. Also, the proposed commencement of recreational marijuana sales should begin but the Virginia legislature did not ratify the legal provisions required for this in time for sales to begin on January 1, 2024.
Federal Legalization of Weed in 2024
Introduced and passed by the House, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE) decriminalizes marijuana. The bill explicitly removes marijuana from the list of scheduled substances and abolishes criminal penalties for persons in the manufacture, possession, and distribution of marijuana. Other changes reflected in the bill include:
- Replacing all reference to the term marijuana with cannabis
- The timely publishing of cannabis businesses and employee demographic data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- An excise tax on all cannabis products manufactured or imported into the US. It also imposes an occupational tax for businesses operating as cannabis export warehouses and cannabis production facilities.
- The bill provides an avenue for cannabis service providers and legitimate cannabis businesses to access loans from the Small Business Administration.
- The act constraints public officers from denying persons with certain cannabis-related convictions federal public benefits or protection under immigration laws.
- The bill provides access to a trust fund and other support programs for persons, communities, and businesses affected by the war on drugs.
- It instructs the Departments of Education to examine the effect state legalization of marijuana has on schools and school-aged children
- It further permits the National Institute for Occupational and Health to survey the impact of state legalization of adult-use marijuana in the workplace.
- It emphasizes the need for the National Traffic Safety Administration to research new ways of identifying a motorist impaired by marijuana.
Can I Use Cannabis?
Yes, a Virginia resident above the age of 21 can possess and use cannabis within the permitted limits in the state. While recreational cannabis use is only permitted for residents above the age of 21, patients intending to use cannabis for medical purposes must possess Virginia Medical Marijuana (MMJ) Cards and meet the following qualifications:
- Be diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition
- Possess written certification recommendation from a registered Virginia physician
- Possess proof of Virginia residence. A state driver's license or ID card will suffice.
In July 2022, Governor Youngkin signed legislation into law, eliminating the need for patients to register or show proof of registration with the Board of Pharmacy before accessing medical marijuana.
Although cannabis is now legal in Virginia, it was a prohibited drug in the United States in the past. In the 19th century, cannabis became a popular ingredient in many medicinal products and was sold openly in pharmacies. Mexican immigrants flooded the United States amid the Mexican Revolution of 1910 bringing with them the recreational use of marijuana. The drug became known with Mexican immigrants and was linked with insanity, violence, and murder. By 1931, 29 states had banned marijuana. In 1937, the federal government approved the Marijuana Tax Act, effectively banning marijuana use nationwide.
How The Legal Sale Of Cannabis In Virginia Happens
In Virginia, only medical marijuana is allowed to be sold. The sales of recreational marijuana was billed to commence in 2024 but that is unlikely because a change in the state’s legislature led to a freeze on the legal framework needed for an adult-use cannabis market in Virginia. Despite this outcome, weed legalization in Virginia means adults from the age of 21 may plant their own marijuana securely on their premises if they abide by the government regulations guiding home cultivation of marijuana in Virginia.
Only registered patients, or their parents, or legal guardians are allowed to purchase medical marijuana. A patient needs to be diagnosed by a doctor and ascertained that they have medical conditions that they believe can be managed with medical marijuana. The patient has to obtain a written certification from a Board of Pharmacy-Registered Practitioner. If the patient is a minor or an incapacitated adult, their parents or their legal guardian may need to obtain a written certification in their own names to be able to purchase medical marijuana for the patient. The person who obtains the written certification must further obtain registration from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy.
There are four authorized medical marijuana dispensaries in Virginia. Patients, their parents, or legal guardians need to visit any of the authorized dispensaries to purchase medical marijuana. They will be required to present the following documents:
- A government-issued I.D. card
- Their medical marijuana card issued by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy
- A printed copy of their valid, written certification.
People that could be allowed to enter into medical marijuana dispensaries are limited to the patients and their registered agents. Children, spouses, and aides of medical marijuana patients that are not registered with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy will not be allowed to enter medical marijuana dispensaries. A patient or their registered agent may only purchase not more than a 90-day supply of medical marijuana as determined by the pharmacist's prescription.
The State of Virginia allows adults aged 21 years and above to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational uses. Patients diagnosed with ailments that can be managed with medical marijuana are also allowed to purchase marijuana products from authorized dispensaries. However, there are laws in the state guiding the possession and distribution of marijuana and marijuana products in the state. Flouting these laws also comes with some penalties. Some of these Virginia marijuana possession laws are as follows:
- One Ounce to Four Ounces: The possession of four ounces and below of marijuana in public is a civil violation in Virginia. There is no jail sentence, but the perpetrator pays a fine of $25.
- Four Ounce to One Pound (First Offense): Possessing up to one pound of marijuana in public is a misdemeanor offense. Persons in violation pay a fine of $500.
- Four Ounce to One Pound (Second and Subsequent Offense): For a repeat offense, it is also a misdemeanor charge. However, the offender gets up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1000.
- More than One Pound: Possessing more than one pound of marijuana in public is a felony. The state imposes a maximum fine of $250,000. Also, the offender gets a jail sentence between one to ten years.
The possession with the intent to distribute or sell marijuana is unlawful and attracts the following penalties:
- One Ounce or Less: It is a class 1 misdemeanor with 12 months of jail time and fines not exceeding $2,500.
- One Ounce to Five Ounces: Possession with the intent to distribute is a felony. Offenders get not less than 12 months imprisonment but not more than ten years. In addition, the courts may impose a fine not exceeding $2,500.
- More than Five Pounds: Possession with the intent to distribute more than five pounds of marijuana is a felony punishable by incarceration of a minimum of five years to a maximum of 30 years. The courts may require the offender to pay fines up to $100,000.
The limitations for the cultivation of marijuana include:
- Anyone cultivating more than four marijuana plants but not more than 10 marijuana plants will be guilty of a civil penalty of $250 if the case is a first-time offense. If the case is a second-time offense, the person will be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor with fines of up to $500. Third and subsequent offense is a misdemeanor charge with jail sentence up to six months and fines not exceeding $1000.
- Anyone with more than 10 marijuana plants but no more than 49 plants will be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. It attracts a penalty of 12 months imprisonment and fines not more than $2,500.
- Anyone having possession of more than 49 marijuana plants, but not more than 100 plants will be guilty of a Class 6 felony. The punishment for cultivating up to 100 plants is a jail sentence between one to five years and fines not exceeding $2,500.
- Anyone cultivating more than 100 marijuana plants will be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment, ranging between one year to 10 years, and a fine not more than $250,000.
- It is a civil offense for an individual to cultivate their marijuana plants at a position visible from a public way. The penalty for this offense is a fine of $25.
- Any act of negligence that allows a person under 21 to gain unrestricted access to a marijuana cultivation site is an offense. Defaulters pay a fine of $25 as a penalty if convicted.
- Persons cultivating marijuana for personal use must tag each plant with a legible tag. Failure to comply attracts a fine of $25.
Marijuana consumption limitations are as follows:
- It is a misdemeanor offense to consume marijuana within the property of a public elementary or secondary school during school hours. A person convicted of consuming marijuana within the premises of a school faces incarceration of six months and fines of up to $1,000.
It is an offense to sell marijuana paraphernalia. It is also illegal to possess marijuana paraphernalia with the intention of selling. Under Virginia law, selling marijuana paraphernalia is a class 1 misdemeanor. The penalty is incarceration for up to 12 months with fines not exceeding $2,500. Upon conviction, any adult who sells marijuana paraphernalia to a minor gets a one to five years jail sentence. The court may also impose fines of up to $2,500.
It is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana in Virginia. It is also unlawful for a passenger in a motor vehicle to be under the influence of marijuana. The penalty for driving under the influence of marijuana is a minimum jail sentence of two years but not more than ten years. The courts may also require the offender to pay a fine of not more than $100,000.
Any person who violates Virginia laws on the possession, sale, cultivation, trafficking, manufacture, and distribution of marijuana faces fines and jail time. Possible remedies for defendants for violating Virginia marijuana laws include:
- The defendant was in temporary possession of the marijuana and intended to dispose of it.
- Law enforcement officers conducted an illegal search leading to the discovery of marijuana.
- The law enforcement officer failed to read the defendant right before the arrest.
- Cooperating with the investigation by offering valuable information leading to the arrest of others in the drug operation.
Possible outcomes for a defendant working with a defense attorney for marijuana violation charges include:
- Reduced jail time or no jail time
- Probation in place of jail time
- Attending a drug rehabilitation program
- Community service in exchange for incarceration
- Reduced fines
Confiscation of assets, under Virginia law, is when any asset, including money, equipment, motor vehicle, personal and real property, and structures traceable to the illegal sale, manufacture, or distribution of marijuana, is subject to confiscation by law enforcement on conviction. Also, any asset given in exchange for the unlicensed manufacture, distribution, and sale of marijuana is subject to lawful confiscation by an enforcing officer.
Virginia marijuana trafficking laws state that it is unlawful to transport five pounds or more of marijuana into Virginia to sell. Any person guilty of marijuana trafficking charges in Virginia faces five to 40 years of incarceration. The courts mandate a minimum jail term of three years and fines of up to $1,000,000. The penalty for a subsequent conviction for trafficking marijuana in Virginia is a mandatory minimum jail term of 10 years.
Virginia marijuana distribution laws dictate that it is an offense for a minor to intentionally distribute more than one ounce of marijuana to a person under 18 or at least three years younger. It is also unlawful to cause a minor to partake in the distribution of marijuana. Both offenses are felony charges punishable by imprisonment of a minimum of 10 years but not less than 50 years. The law stipulates that five years of this sentence must be a mandatory minimum sentence. The offender may also pay fines not exceeding $100,000. Distributing marijuana to a minor is a misdemeanor. The offender faces imprisonment for a period of 12 months and a maximum fine of $2,500.
Additional Virginia Marijuana Limitations
More legal marijuana limitations in Virginia are as follows:
- In 2022 the Virginia governor signed into law a bill re-criminalizing personal possession of marijuana in public by persons 21 years and older. Effective July 1st, 2022, public possession of four ounces of marijuana but under one pound attracts a fine of $500. Subsequent offenses are punishable by fines up to $1,000 and six months of jail time.
- Anyone involved in manufacturing marijuana products or storing marijuana to manufacture products for sale will be guilty of a felony. The punishment for such a felony will be imprisonment ranging from five years to 30 years and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
- Any apartment, building office, store, or structure used for the illegal manufacture and distribution of marijuana is considered a forfeited drug house on conviction. Any person who maintains a seized asset commits a felony with a penalty of one to ten years of incarceration and is subject to a maximum fine of $2,500.
- It is illegal to sell, manufacture, or traffick marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop or a school is a felony. Offenders are subject to a prison sentence of one to five years and a maximum fine of $100,000.
- Sharing marijuana with an inmate in the state or local correctional facility would make such a person guilty of a Class 4 felony. Offenders face imprisonment of two to ten years and fines not exceeding $100,000.
What is Virginia's Cannabis History?
The cultivation and possession of marijuana in the State of Virginia was not an offense for a long period. In 1619, the Virginia Assembly passed a law mandating every farmer to grow marijuana. The products were allowed to be exchanged as legal tender in some states in the U.S., including Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. After that, agricultural production of marijuana flourished in the state until 1989 when President George Bush declared war on drugs in a nationally broadcast speech. In the 1990s, the Virginia legislature restricted the use of marijuana. However, they allowed a provision that marijuana can be used for medical purposes such as treatment of cancer and glaucoma. Other than for commercial purposes, anyone may plant any amount of marijuana for personal use. The cultivation of marijuana for commercial purposes carries a felony charge that may warrant up to 35 years imprisonment.
Up until July 1, 2017, a first-time offender for the possession of marijuana was charged as an unclassified misdemeanor. The offense attracted a maximum penalty of 30 days imprisonment or a $500 fine or both. It also warranted the loss of driving privileges. By July 2017, loss of driving privileges became discretionary for adults, depending on the verdict of the judge. However, juveniles charged with possession of marijuana will automatically lose driving privileges. A second-time offender or more will be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, which could warrant up to 12 months imprisonment or a $2,500 fine, or both. By July 1, 2020, the simple possession of marijuana in Virginia was decriminalized. This was after Governor Ralph Northam signed House Bill 972 and Senate bill 2 on May 21, 2020. The simple possession meant the possession of less than one ounce (28g) of marijuana.
On April 7, 2021, the State of Virginia commenced the process of legalizing adult-use marijuana. The House Bill 2312 and Senate Bill 1406 were passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor. The process took effect from July 1, 2021. In April 2022, the governor made efforts to re-criminalize the possession of 2 ounces of marijuana for adults. The state created the Cannabis Control Authority to regulate the marijuana industry. From then, simple possession of marijuana and home cultivation were legalized for adults aged 21 years and above.
What are Restrictions on Cannabis in Virginia?
Medical marijuana and recreational marijuana are legalized in Virginia, but some restrictions are still placed on the possession and use of marijuana and marijuana products in the state. Some of these restrictions are:
- Only adults from the age of 21 are allowed to possess or consume recreational marijuana.
- No one is allowed to sell recreational marijuana in Virginia until 2024, when the state is expected to have licensed dispensaries and completed the modalities for the sales.
- It is unlawful to give or sell recreational marijuana to a minor or anyone below the age of 21.
- It is an offense to consume marijuana while driving a motor vehicle on a public road. It is also an offense to consume marijuana while being a passenger in a motor vehicle driven on a public road.
- It is unlawful to consume marijuana in public in Virginia.
- It is unlawful for anyone to be in possession of medical marijuana unless they have a valid prescription from a medical doctor.
- It is unlawful to consume marijuana on federal property in the state.
- It is unlawful to transport marijuana or marijuana products across state lines.
- It is unlawful to possess or consume marijuana or marijuana products on an elementary or secondary school premises.
- It is unlawful to transport marijuana and marijuana products in motor vehicles used to transport passengers.
- It is illegal to share marijuana with an inmate in any correctional service in Virginia.