Marijuana legalization in Virginia explained: What’s legal on July 1?

A breakdown of what’s legal, what’s not and what Virginians can expect with these new laws

In this April 6, 2018, file photo, are the leaves of a marijuana plant inside Ultra Health's cultivation greenhouse in Bernalillo, N.M. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File) (Susan Montoya Bryan, Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

With marijuana legalization in the Commonwealth right around the corner, there may be some confusion on what’s legal and what’s not.

We’ll break down the hot button questions we’ve received since April 7 when Gov. Ralph Northam signed the bill, making Virginia the first Southern state to legalize marijuana.

Here’s what you can expect with these new laws taking effect in Virginia on July 1.

What’s legal on July 1?

Note: This change of law is only applicable for adults in Virginia who are 21 years and older.

  • Having a maximum of an ounce of marijuana for personal use
  • Using marijuana while in a private residence. However, Virginia law states that there is nothing prohibiting the owner of a private residence from restricting marijuana use. This means, if you live in an apartment owned by someone else, they could restrict you from using it in your apartment.
  • Growing up to four marijuana plants per household as long as the plant isn’t visible to the public, people younger than 21 years of age do not have access to them, and each plant must have a legible tag attached that includes the person’s name, driver’s license or ID number
  • “Adult sharing,” which means you can transfer an ounce or less of marijuana between people who are 21-year-old or older as long as it is given as a gift and is not being sold to another person

What remains illegal? What are the repercussions?

  • Having more than an ounce of marijuana at a time
    • If you are found guilty of possessing more than an ounce but not more than a pound of marijuana, you are subject to a civil penalty of no more than $25.
    • If you are found guilty of possessing more than a pound of marijuana, you’re subject to a felony charge.
  • If you are under the age of 21, you are not allowed to consume, purchase or possess marijuana, or attempt to consume, purchase or possess marijuana.
  • Distributing or selling marijuana
  • Possessing any amount of marijuana with the intent to distribute or sell it
  • Using marijuana while operating or riding in a motor vehicle
  • Using marijuana while operating a school bus, a motor vehicle transporting passengers for hire (like an Uber, Lyft or Taxi), or a commercial vehicle
  • Possessing marijuana on school grounds

When will marijuana sales begin in Virginia?

Commercial sales of marijuana in Virginia are all dependent on the 2022 General Assembly reenacting specific regulatory sections of the bill, according to Virginia officials.

Once that’s approved, retail sales can begin on January 1, 2024, but again, we won’t know for sure until 2022.

How does this affect those who were incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses?

Gov. Ralph Northam accelerated the legalization process as he wanted to end the disproportionate treatment of people of color who are incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses.

The bill allows for the resentencing of individuals currently incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses. This means that these individuals are able to have a hearing before the court that originally sentenced them, and legal counsel will be provided for those who need it.

Similar to marijuana sales, the portion of the bill regarding people incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses must also be reenacted by the 2022 General Assembly.

Where does Virginia go from here with the marijuana legalization?

From here, two big things that we know of so far will happen: reenacting portions of the bill and retail sales of marijuana.

In 2022, the General Assembly needs to revisit the regulatory sections of the bill. It must be approved again by the 2022 General Assembly before it can become law.

Officials said the General Assembly and the Cannabis Control Authority, overlooked by a Health Advisory Council, will complete regulations, implement a social equity program and issue business licenses.

If the bill is reenacted in 2022, Virginia officials said the legal sale of marijuana to adults 21 and older can begin on January 1, 2024.

With that, comes marijuana business licensure. If the licensing provisions of the bill are approved again, those interested will likely be able to apply for a business license in 2023.

Future action when it comes to marijuana in Virginia isn’t super clear right now, but it will get clearer once Virginia’s Cannabis Control Authority begins its work starting July 1, 2021.

Still have questions?

About the Author:

Nicole Del Rosario joined WSLS 10 in August 2020.