Virginia reformed its marijuana laws last year to allow for recreational use, with legal sales set to follow on January 1, 2024.
Virginian lawmakers have nonetheless still been busy in the past year approving various pieces of cannabis-related legislation that have been signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Here’s a brief overview of the most pressing changes to Virginia’s marijuana laws.
The state’s 2022 budget bill recriminalized possession of more than four ounces of cannabis in public.
Before, possession of such amounts was punishable by a $25 civil fine. Now, possession of between four ounces and one pound of marijuana is a Class 3 misdemeanor subject to a $500 fine, while further offenses are considered a Class 2 misdemeanor with the threat of six months in jail on top of a $1,000 fine.
Youngkin’s move to recriminalize certain cannabis possession violations runs counter to a campaign promise he made. He even went so far as to lower the possession limit to two ounces through his veto powers, but this effort failed to advance in the Senate.
Marijuana reform advocates in Virginia took issue with the regression back to prohibition-style approaches to cannabis criminalization, as well as a House committee’s efforts at blocking Senate-approved legislation that would have brought the date forward for legal cannabis sales to this September.
Patients that have received certification from a registered practitioner for medical marijuana no longer need to register with the state’s Board of Pharmacy. Many medical marijuana patients had complained of long wait times before receiving approval.
They can now take their written certification straight to a state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary to obtain their treatment. Those who wish to apply for a medical marijuana card can still choose to do so.
The 2022 budget included language that eliminates penalties for marijuana possession at home, as well as multiple Class 6 felonies pertaining to home cannabis cultivation, including failure to tag plants, ensure they are not visible to the public, and that they are inaccessible to minors.
These infractions are now only punishable by a $25 civil penalty.
Further provisions in the 2022 budget explicitly prohibit sales of THC products to minors under 21 years of age, as well as the marketing of products to appear similar to well-known brands.
Marijuana reform advocates, however, contend the bill won’t help bring any further regulatory oversight to hemp-derived products, such as synthetic marijuana and delta 8 THC.
“All tetrahydrocannabinols – not just delta-9 THC, but delta-8 THC and other synthetics – with the stroke of Governor Youngkin’s pen will be legal in Virginia as long as it is labeled ‘hemp,’” said Delegate Dawn Adams, a nurse with expertise in medical marijuana.