Marijuana Legalization in Virginia

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Christa Simmons

Marijuana Legalization in Virginia - Sugar Ray's DC

Marijuana Legalization in Virginia – What You Need to Know

As of July 1st, Virginia marijuana legalization has made a massive advancement. Recently, new laws have been passed in Virginia allowing residents twenty-one years of age and older to consume, grow and possess Marijuana. However, unless you have a signed prescription from a doctor, buying it is still illegal. This has led advocates of marijuana legalization to call for further adjustments to the existing law.

So, how do I legally obtain weed in Virginia?

Currently, lawmakers have slated 2024 as the target date for retail marijuana sales to begin, but that timeline is obviously a long way off. This timeline comes from the need to establish an agency to enforce retail sales laws for the substance, which will be known as the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority.

Legalization advocates, however, are pushing for a much quicker time frame. Jean Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, had a lot to say on the topic.

“Our priority in the 2022 legislative session is to expedite retail access for adult consumers, both through already operational medical dispensaries and by moving up the date VCCA can begin issuing new licenses,” she told the Virginia Mercury during an interview.

Medical dispensaries seconded this sentiment and began lobbying for permission to sell recreationally as soon as this year, but they were shut down by lawmakers. Legislators in the state had concerns about the dispensaries getting a headstart on selling, as they are currently working to encourage minority-owned dispensary businesses in the interest of social equity.

When and how can I use marijuana in Virginia?

The new laws in Virginia were only put into effect on July 1, 2021, so there are bound to be several questions on what exactly is legal in Virginia and what is not. Here is a brief list of what you are currently able to do:

✔Marijuana possession by adults 21 and older is currently legal

✔Growing marijuana (four plants or less) within your primary household is legal for       adults

✔Sharing of the substance is allowed between adults so long as it is in private and less than one ounce

✔Adults may obtain marijuana at Virginia medical dispensaries

✔Marijuana can be obtained with a doctor-signed prescription

Here is what ISN’T legal in Virginia:

❌Consuming marijuana in public remains illegal

❌Possessing or consuming marijuana if you are under 21 years of age

❌Any form of possession on a school bus or school grounds

❌Consumption of any amount of marijuana while operating a motor vehicle or heavy machinery

❌You can not sell marijuana unless you are a legal dispensary with a license

❌Having an open container in a vehicle (this includes plastic Tupperware, sealable baggies, boxes, etc.)

❌Selling or purchasing marijuana plants or seeds without a license

❌Gifting schemes, such as giving away marijuana with purchase, public giveaways, or public consumption events

❌You may not purchase marijuana seeds or plants in another state and carry them across state lines.

Which parts of the law are still up for change?

Because this is a new law that hasn’t had the time to be adjusted and perfected yet, many parts of the law are still on the table for potential adjustments. Chelsea Higgs Wise, the founder of Marijuana Justice, appears to be leading the charge in this area.

While Wise cheered on the possibility of speeding the public sales timeline, she took issue with multiple other parts of the recently passed legislation. In Higg’s eyes, the retail market should be secondary to other social justice issues.

Wise’s criticism of the law began with the statement that, regardless of marijuana legalization, there still is no provision in the law that requires resentencing for marijuana-based convictions. Lawmakers responded to this by stating that they simply ran out of time to include that addendum.

Here is Wise’s response:

“Pushing up commercial sales purely for access to weed is not the priority when this always has been and has to be a racial justice issue. The July 1 law is rooted in eliminating racist enforcement of simple possession, not to expand access. Because it’s always been accessible, but only certain people have been criminalized for it.”

She also claimed that changes needed to be made that eliminated criminal penalties for victimless marijuana crimes like open container laws and youth caught with the substance. She backed up her statement by saying that these two laws would likely continue to be enforced disproportionately against people of color.

Additionally, Wise was also concerned with the legislation addendum that prohibited public consumption, as it would prevent the homeless from being able to use marijuana at all, as well as residents of publicly funded housing and those in private complexes where lease additions prohibit marijuana use.

Wise’s statements have definitely left an impact on lawmakers and have given them something to think about while drafting the next round of marijuana legislation.

With all of this in mind, one thing is certain: Virginia has taken its first steps to legalize marijuana, a process that has been long-awaited by many Virginians.