Ahead of marijuana legalization taking effect in Virginia on July 1, 2021, the state has launched a website to educate its residents on the law change and outline of the new legal cannabis industry.
The site lays out how marijuana legalization came to pass in Virginia, what the new law entails and provides a timeline detailing when Virginians will be legally able to buy adult-use cannabis. It also informs residents what will remain illegal post-legalization and how the state aims to promote social equity in the cannabis industry for those communities that have been most harmed by the enforcement of Virginia’s marijuana prohibition laws.
Under the bill passed by the legislature in February and enacted by Gov. Ralph Northam in April, possession of up to one ounce of cannabis will be legal for adults 21 and older from July 1, 2021. Initially, the Virginia legislature passed a bill that would have meant low-level marijuana possession would remain illegal until July 1, 2024, but Gov. Northam insisted on bringing that date forward to this summer. Home cultivation of up to four plants will also be permitted from then so long as they are labeled with “identification information, out of sight of public view, and out of range of individuals under the age of 21.”
From July 1, 2021, all arrests, charges and conviction records of misdemeanor possession offenses with intent to distribute will be sealed. Records of simple possession offenses have already been sealed as of last year. By July 1, 2025, all Virginia state agencies will be required to have automatically sealed all records of interactions with law enforcement concerning simple possession and possession with intent to distribute.
The earliest date by which residents can legally purchase marijuana in Virginia is January 1, 2024. Until then, the state marijuana regulator will develop the rules and regulations of the industry and ensure social equity and safety requirements are met.
While sharing small amounts of marijuana between adults will be permitted until legal sales begin, state officials are keen to avoid the “gifting market” that appeared in Washington, D.C. where marijuana possession was legalized but sales were not. This led to businesses offering products for sale alongside “free” gifts of cannabis. Virginian law, therefore, states that marijuana gifts cannot be offered in conjunction with the sale of another product.
Virginia’s marijuana legalization website launch closely follows similar moves in New York and New Mexico, which also approved the measure through the legislature this year.