With the Cannabis Control Act, cannabis use by adults aged 21 and older became legal in the state of Virginia, including in Prince William County, as of July 1, 2021. This includes home cultivation for personal use. There are several requirements to be allowed to do this, though.
To cultivate marijuana at home, an individual must be 21 years old and older. Only a maximum of four marijuana plants are allowed per household, no matter how many adults reside in it. The house must also be the main residence of the individual growing the marijuana.
A clearly readable tag must be attached to each plant showing the grower’s full name and driver’s license number or the number of an equivalent identification card certifying the grower’s age. The tag must also state that the marijuana plant is for personal use only in compliance with the law.
There is no requirement for marijuana plants being grown at home to be indoors but they must not be visible to the public. The grower is also responsible for ensuring that the plants cannot be accessed by anyone younger than the age of 21. Any deviation from these regulations will subject the individual to criminal penalties.
Apart from home growers, holders of the pharmaceutical cannabis processor permit are also allowed to cultivate cannabis. The current requirements to become a pharmaceutical cannabis processor permit holder are presented in the next section.
The Board of Pharmacy does not permit pharmaceutical cannabis processor permit holders who cultivate marijuana to use pesticide chemicals unless authorized by the Virginia Department of Health to stop a catastrophic infestation that could destroy the crops. Section 54.1-3442.6 of the Code of Virginia also requires them to have the cannabis cultivation facility supervised by an individual with a degree in the field of agriculture, a related certification that the Board recognizes, or a minimum of two years of experience in agriculture. Furthermore, the cannabis cultivation facility must dispose of agricultural waste securely.
The Cannabis Control Authority (CCA) created by the Cannabis Control Act will, however, be the new regulator that will create new requirements for licensed marijuana cultivation facilities. The law allows the CCA to license up to 450 new marijuana cultivation facilities.
Cannabis manufacturing is legal in Virginia, including Prince William County. Currently, this is only possible with a pharmaceutical cannabis processor permit from the Virginia Department of Health Professions Board of Pharmacy. They are the only growers allowed to process cannabis. Home growers of marijuana are prohibited from processing concentrates from their plants.
According to the Board, the Code of Virginia authorizes it to issue a maximum of five pharmaceutical cannabis processor permits. Each permit holder is allowed to process cannabis. There are currently four pharmaceutical cannabis processor permit holders and applications have been submitted for the fifth slot. The Board has closed submissions.
Section 54.1-3442.6 of the Code of Virginia states that applicants for pharmaceutical cannabis processor permits must undergo fingerprinting and a criminal background check at their own expense. If the permit is granted, they must require the same for all their employees. They are not allowed to employ anyone convicted of a felony in Virginia in the past five years. They must also perform drug screening among applicants and regularly among employees.
A pharmaceutical cannabis processor must display its permit prominently in its facility. It must have secure premises and full controls. Recordkeeping must be precise and labeling must be complete and correct.
From each batch of processed cannabis products, the pharmaceutical cannabis processor must submit a sample to a Board-approved independent laboratory. This will be tested on total tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, total cannabidiol (CBD) content, terpenes, heavy metals, pesticide chemical residue, mycotoxins, microbiological contaminants, and moisture. Also, according to the Board’s Administrative Code 18VAC110-60-280, cannabis oil for vaporization or inhalation must not contain vitamin E acetate.
All cannabis products that pass the standards of testing, packaging, and labeling must be registered with the Board. The Board will conduct routine inspections of cannabis processing facilities not more than once a year.
With the new Cannabis Control Act, however, the CCA will be creating new regulations for licensed marijuana manufacturing facilities and marijuana testing facilities. The law allows the CCA to license up to 60 new marijuana manufacturing facilities.
Cannabis retail is legal in Virginia, including Prince William County, but currently only with a cannabis dispensing facility permit from the Virginia Department of Health Professions Board of Pharmacy. Home growers of marijuana are prohibited from selling any part of the marijuana they grow.
According to the Board, it is authorized to issue permits for up to five cannabis dispensing facilities for each holder of a pharmaceutical cannabis processor permit. No other parties are qualified to apply for a cannabis dispensing facility.
Section 54.1-3442.6 of the Code of Virginia states that the application for a dispensing facility by a pharmaceutical cannabis processor must bear the signature of a licensed pharmacist who must be fully in charge of the dispensing facility. Owners applying for the permit must go through and pay for a criminal background check, including fingerprinting.
Once licensed, the dispensing facility must require all applicants to go through the same process. Felons convicted in Virginia within the previous five years cannot be employed. Drug screening must be done for all applicants. Employees must also go through it regularly.
A dispensing facility must prominently display its permit on its premises. It must ensure that it has full controls and a tight security system. The Board will inspect dispensing facilities routinely once a year at most.
The facility must practice efficient recordkeeping and accurate labeling indicating the potency of the cannabis product. Every dose of cannabis oil to be dispensed by a facility must contain delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol of not more than 10 milligrams. Section 54.1-3442.7 of the Code of Virginia states that a dispensing facility can only dispense a maximum of a 90-day supply of cannabis to a patient within 90 days.
For those who are not patients and are aged 21 and older, the Cannabis Control Act sets a limit to legal cannabis possession outside the home to one ounce. That also puts a limit of one ounce of cannabis to be purchased and brought out of a dispensary.
Section 54.1-3442.7 of the Code of Virginia states that dispensaries are allowed to sell cannabis products by retail. The Cannabis Control Act defines these as products made up of marijuana with possible additional ingredients. They include cannabis products for consumption orally, by inhalation, and topically, such as parts of the marijuana plant, concentrates, extracts, tinctures, salts, edibles,and ointments. Dispensaries are also allowed to sell marijuana paraphernalia used for the consumption of marijuana, such as through ingestion or inhalation.
Under the new Cannabis Control Act, the CCA was created to promulgate new policies covering licensed marijuana retailers and wholesalers. The law allows the CCA to license up to 400 new marijuana retailers and 25 new marijuana wholesalers. Marijuana retail facilities will be allowed a maximum area of 1,500 square feet.
Cannabis delivery in Virginia, including Prince William County, is legal but currently only for pharmaceutical cannabis processor permit holders and their dispensing facilities. Pharmaceutical cannabis processors are only allowed to deliver products to dispensaries. If they hold a dispensary license, as well, then they can deliver to patients and other buyers aged 21 and older. Deliveries of cannabis and cannabis products must be done in person.
Once the CCA creates new regulations for licensed marijuana retailers, however, this may include changes in cannabis delivery rules, as well.
As of July 1, 2022 a medical marijuana card is no longer required for patients and parents or legal guardians of patients who are minors to legally purchase marijuana in the state of Virginia, including in Prince William County. This is due to HB933 which was enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia on April 11, 2022.
However, patients or the parents or legal guardians of patients who are minors are still required to present at the dispensary their government-issued identification card and a written certification from a registered practitioner. A list of registered medical practitioners for medical marijuana can be found online. While anyone aged 21 and older can purchase marijuana at a dispensary, that purchase will be limited to an ounce. Only patients with a registered medical practitioner’s certification can get a 90-day supply based on their individual treatment protocols.
Patients or the parents or legal guardians of minors who still want to get the optional medical marijuana card can still do so through an online application process that costs $50. They must complete the online form, pay the fee, and submit the written certification from a registered medical practitioner along with proof of their identity, age, and Virginia residency. They will receive their medical marijuana card after about 60 business days.
While there are no current figures on cannabis sales revenues and tax income in Virginia, data from a study directed by the Virginia General Assembly (GA) in 2020 provides much information. The GA asked the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to study strategic factors in the legalization of marijuana and make recommendations based on results. This included the economic impact of marijuana legalization on the state, with projected demand and tax revenues.
The Commission noted that most states impose a 20% to 30% tax on marijuana retail sales of their commercial marijuana market. JLARC suggested that Virginia could set a 20% marijuana tax and 5.3% sales tax for a total tax of 25.3%. At such a rate, the first year could generate tax revenues from $31 million to $52 million. This could increase to $154 million to $257 million as the commercial marijuana market matures in the fifth year.
The other option would be a 25% marijuana tax and 5.3% sales tax for a total tax of 30.3%. With this, tax revenues from the first year could be from $37 million to $62 million. In the fifth year, this could reach $184 million to $308 million.
The Commission further recommended putting higher taxes on easily consumed products like edible and products with higher potency since these create greater risks on public health. Doing so could add another $50 million to tax revenues by the fifth year.
Also, JLARC noted that 20% of sales tax revenues from local jurisdictions could be shared with local governments.
There is no available data yet to compare the effects of cannabis legalization on crime rates in Prince William County because the latest data on the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer is from 2020 and the Cannabis Control Act took effect on July 1, 2021.
As a baseline, however, the Prince William Police Department reports 1,171 drug abuse violations in 2020. Arrests for drug possession numbered 1,001, of which 603 were for marijuana. There were 163 arrests for drug manufacturing or sales, of which 50 were for marijuana.
For DUI, there were 990 arrests.