Marijuana became legal in Virginia for the first time in July 2021.
But it is not entirely unregulated; there are still laws and regulations that govern its use, gifting, growing, sales, and more. In this blog – part of Vanderpool, Frostick, & Nishanian, P.C.’s series featuring our new cannabis practice area – we explore what is legal and illegal and what future changes are coming as well.
Please keep in mind that this is a general legal summary for informational purposes only. If you have specific questions or would like to discuss a case, please contact us directly. Nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice.
What is now Legal?
- Adults 21 years and older may possess not more than one ounce of cannabis for personal use.
- Generally, adults 21 years and older may use marijuana in private residences. However, nothing prohibits the owner of a private residence from restricting the use of marijuana on its premises.
- Adults 21 and over may grow up to four plants per household (not per person), according to specified requirements (see below).
- “Adult sharing” or transferring one ounce or less of marijuana between persons who are 21 years or older without remuneration is legal. “Adult sharing” does not include instances in which (i) marijuana is given away contemporaneously with another reciprocal transaction between the same parties; (ii) a gift of marijuana is offered or advertised in conjunction with an offer for the sale of goods or services, or (iii) a gift of marijuana is contingent upon a separate reciprocal transaction for goods or services. At its essence, you cannot barter marijuana for anything else of value.
What is still Illegal?
- It remains illegal for anyone to possess more than one ounce of marijuana. Individuals found guilty of possessing more than one ounce but not more than one pound of marijuana are subject to a civil penalty of not more than $25. Individuals found guilty of possessing more than one pound are subject to a felony.
- It remains illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume, purchase, or possess marijuana, or to attempt to consume, purchase or possess any amount of marijuana.
- It remains illegal to distribute or sell marijuana and/or to possess any amount of marijuana with the intent to distribute or sell it. This prohibition applies equally to businesses, which will not be permitted to sell, “gift,” or in any other way distribute marijuana. For more information on how to obtain a license to sell marijuana in the future, please see below.
- Existing safety measures remain in place, including prohibiting the use of marijuana while driving a motor vehicle or while being a passenger in a motor vehicle, possessing marijuana on school grounds, while operating a school bus, in a motor vehicle transporting passengers for hire, or in a commercial vehicle.
- It remains illegal to consume marijuana or offer marijuana to another person in any public place.
When will sales of marijuana begin?
It will not be legal to sell marijuana in Virginia before January 1, 2024. The law will create a new, independent political subdivision to regulate the marijuana industry. While the Cannabis Control Authority (CCA) began its work in July 2021, it will take time for the authority to hire staff, write regulations, and implement equity and safety initiatives. Additionally, many of the regulatory sections of the marijuana legalization bill must be reenacted (approved again) by the 2022 General Assembly before becoming law. For more information on the commercial market, please see below.
I have a medical condition. How do I get a medical card to buy cannabis products?
To purchase cannabis for medical purposes, a patient must have both (a) an unexpired written certification issued from a board-registered practitioner and (b) a current active patient registration issued by the Board of Pharmacy. You can find more information by visiting the Department of Health Professions: Board of Pharmacy’s website.
Can I get a license to sell medical cannabis?
Not as of July 20, 2021. Virginia’s medical cannabis pharmaceutical processor program is currently only authorized to permit five companies (one permit in each Virginia Department of Health Service Area) to cultivate, process, and dispense medical cannabis to registered patients. You can find more information about Virginia’s medical cannabis pharmaceutical processor program by visiting the Department of Health Professions: Board of Pharmacy.
Adult-Use Cannabis Commercial Sales
How will the cannabis industry be regulated?
On July 1, 2021, the law authorized the creation of the Cannabis Control Authority (CCA), a new, independent political subdivision to regulate the marijuana industry, including issuing licenses for businesses, creating health and safety guidelines, and promoting diversity within the industry. On July 19, 2021, Governor Northam appointed the Cannabis Control Authority’s Board of Directors members. The Board, along with a CEO, will lead the creation of an adult-use marketplace. However, the CCA will not complete marijuana regulations or begin accepting applications for businesses before 2023.
When can I apply for a marijuana business license?
It will not be legal to sell marijuana before 2024. Until then, it remains a crime to sell any amount of marijuana. However, if the licensing provisions of the bill are reenacted (approved again) in the 2022 General Assembly session, you will likely be able to apply for a marijuana business license in 2023. More instructions and guidance for people wanting to start a marijuana business will be released before the application period begins.
Are there any steps I need to take before applying for a license in 2023?
Not at this time. The Cannabis Control Authority will begin the regulatory process and start engaging more directly with interested stakeholders over the next two years.
Can I grow marijuana at home?
“Home Cultivation” became legal on July 1, 2021. Adults 21 and over may now grow up to four marijuana plants per household (not per person) for personal use. Plants can be grown only at your primary place of residence.
Someone who grows plants must:
- ensure that no plant is visible from the public;
- take precautions to prevent unauthorized access by persons younger than 21 years of age; and
- attach to each plant a legible tag that includes the person’s name, driver’s license, or ID number, and a notation that the marijuana plant is being grown for personal use as authorized by law.
It remains illegal to grow more than four plants, to sell or distribute marijuana grown at home, or to manufacture marijuana concentrate from home-cultivated marijuana. Individuals who choose to do so are subject to criminal penalties.
For four free plant tags that meet all of Virginia’s legal requirements, please Contact Us – Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C.
Where can I buy seeds to grow my own at home?
It remains illegal to sell marijuana seeds, clones, flower, or any other part of the marijuana plant in Virginia before 2024. Although there are some states that already have legalized marijuana sales, it remains federally illegal to move marijuana across state lines. You can, however, receive seeds and clones as a gift without remuneration of any kind.
Can I sell my home-grown marijuana to my friends?
No. The existing criminal penalties for selling or distributing marijuana or possessing marijuana with the intent to sell or distribute remain in effect. Individuals who sell marijuana or who possess it intending to sell it are subject to misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the amount of marijuana involved. You may, however, gift marijuana to friends so long as all other requirements are met, i.e., that you receive no remuneration, that the person is an adult, that you gift them one ounce or less, etc.
If you would like more information or to find out how our team can help you or your business, please allow us to answer your business, employment, local government, land use, regulatory, and criminal law questions regarding cannabis and marijuana legalization. Please visit our Cannabis Laws website at Cannabis Laws – Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. for more information.