Timeline for marijuana legalization in Virginia: How did we get here?

We’re starting in 2017 and taking you all the way to 2024

A marijuana plant grows in a field in the mountains surrounding Badiraguato, Sinaloa state, Mexico. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo) (Eduardo Verdugo, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

RICHMOND, Va, – Gov. Ralph Northam sped up marijuana legalization by three years when he signed a bill in April 2021, making Virginia the first state to legalize marijuana.

But just how long has marijuana been a topic of discussion in Virginia legislation?

We’re starting in 2017 and taking you all the way to 2024 to see what comes next for marijuana legalization in the Commonwealth.


March 16, 2017: Virginia enacts a comprehensive medical cannabis law

Through the bill, patients suffering from intractable epilepsy were allowed access to CBD and THC-A oil.

March 9, 2018: Medical cannabis law expanded

Less than a year later, the law changed so that patients suffering from any diagnosed condition or disease, not just epilepsy, could access to CBD or THC-A oil

May 21, 2020: Marijuana is decriminalized

Gov. Northam signed a bill decriminalizing simple marijuana possession and enacted a civil penalty of no more than $25. Before, the law would impose a maximum fine of $500 and a maximum 30-day jail sentence for a first offense, and subsequent offenses are a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Nov. 9, 2020: Marijuana decriminalization law expanded

Northam signed a bill that prohibited law enforcement officers from stopping, searching or seizing a person or place if they believe they smell marijuana coming from that individual.

April 7, 2021: Virginia legalizes marijuana

After accelerating the process by three years, Northam signs a bill making Virginia the first Southern state to legalize marijuana.

July 1, 2021: Virginia marijuana legalization begins

The law goes into effect, allowing people 21 years and older to use marijuana while following specific guidelines like the amount you have and where you choose to use it.

2022: Portions of the bill need to be reenacted by General Assembly

The 2022 General Assembly needs to reenact the specific sections of the bill, including portions dealing with those incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses as well as retail sales of marijuana.

These sections must be approved again before they can become law.

2023: People can apply to receive marijuana business licensure

This is dependent on if the 2022 General Assembly reenacts portions of the bill. If it’s approved, Virginia officials said those interested will likely be able to apply for a business license in 2023, according to Virginia officials.

Jan. 1, 2024: Retail sales of marijuana can begin

Again, commercial sales of marijuana in Virginia are all dependent on the 2022 General Assembly reenacting specific regulatory sections of the bill. Once that’s approved, retail sales of marijuana can begin.


About the Author:

Nicole Del Rosario joined WSLS 10 in August 2020.