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Virginia Laws and Penalties

A majority of the Virginia legislature voted on April 7, 2021 to approve amendments to Senate Bill 1406 | House Bill 2312, which legalizes the personal use and possession of marijuana on July 1, 2021. Provisions in the law permit those age 21 and over to possess up to one ounce in public. Separate provisions in the law regulating the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis do not take effect until January 1, 2024.

“Adult sharing” of up to one ounce of marijuana or an equivalent amount of marijuana products between persons who are 21 years of age or older without remuneration is permitted under the new law. “Adult sharing” does not include instances in which marijuana is given away contemporaneously with another reciprocal transaction between the same parties; a gift of marijuana is offered or advertised in conjunction with an offer for the sale of goods or services; or a gift of marijuana is contingent upon a separate reciprocal transaction for goods or services.

In 2020, Governor Northam approved legislation (Senate Bill 2 | House Bill 972) decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses. It took effect on July 1, 2020. The law reduced penalties for offenses involving the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a civil violation – punishable by a maximum $25 fine, no arrest, and no criminal record, and established a rebuttable presumption that a person who possesses no more than one ounce of marijuana possesses it for personal use. It also explicitly seals past marijuana convictions from employers and school administrators. Separate legislation, SB 5013, signed into law in October 2020 permits those summoned to prepay their bill rather than having to appear in person for a court appearance.

Cultivation

A majority of the Virginia legislature voted on April 7, 2021 to approve amendments to Senate Bill 1406 | House Bill 2312, which legalized the personal cultivation of marijuana on July 1, 2021. Provisions in the law permits those age 21 and over to cultivate up to four plants per household at their primary place of residence. The law requires that no marijuana plant is visible from a public way without the use of aircraft, binoculars, or other optical aids, and that precautions are taken to prevent unauthorized access by persons younger than 21 years of age. To each plant must be attached a legible tag that includes the person’s name, driver’s license or identification number, and a notation that the marijuana plant is being grown for personal use.

Sale/Delivery

In VA, having a large quantity of marijuana is not proof of intent to distribute alone. Distributing more than one ounce of marijuana, but less than 5 pounds, is a Class 5 felony, punishable by at least one year but not more than 10 years in jail. For a first offense, the judge may use his discretion to sentence the offender to a term in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500.

  • Va. Code. Ann. § 18.2-248.1 (2015) Web Search

Distributing more than 5 pounds, but less than 100kg, of marijuana is a felony punishable by no less than 5 and no more than 30 years in prison.

  • Va. Code. Ann. § 18.2-248.1 (2015) Web Search

Distributing more than 100kg of marijuana is punishable with an automatic 20 years to life sentence, with 20 years being the mandatory minimum sentence. This mandatory minimum may be reduced by the judge if:

  1. the person does not have a prior conviction for an drug-related offense;
  2. the person did not use violence or credible threats of violence or possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon in committing the offense and did not convince another participant in the offense to do so;
  3. the offense did not result in death or serious bodily injury to any person;
  4. the person was not an organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor of others in the offense, and was not engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise; and
  5. the offender cooperates with police and judicial officials by providing to the State all information and evidence the person has concerning the offense, but the fact that the person has no relevant or useful other information to provide or that the Commonwealth already is aware of the information shall not preclude a determination by the court that the defendant has complied with this requirement.
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A third sale or intent to distribute conviction brings a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years.

  • Va. Code Ann. §18.2-248 (H) (2015) Web Search

Distributing more than 1 ounce of marijuana to any person under 18 years of age who is at least 3 years younger than the offender, or using such a minor to distribute more than 1 ounce of marijuana, is a felony and will be punished with a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 5 years, a maximum sentence of 50 years, and a fine of no more than $100,000.

  • Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-255 (2015). Web Search

Distributing 1 ounce of marijuana or less to any person under 18 years of age who is at least 3 years younger than the offender, or using such a minor to distribute less than 1 ounce of marijuana, is a felony and will be punished with a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 2 years, a maximum sentence of 50 years, and a fine of no more than $100,000.

  • Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-255 (2015) Web Search

Distributing more than a half-ounce of marijuana within 1,000 ft. of a school or school bus stop is a felony, punishable with a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 year and a maximum sentence of 5 years, plus a fine not to exceed $100,000. However, if such person proves that he sold such controlled substance or marijuana only as an accommodation to another individual and not with intent to profit thereby, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by confinement in jail for not longer than 12 months and a fine not to exceed $2,500.

  • Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-255.2 (2015) Web Search
  • Va. Code Ann. § 63.2-100 (2015) Web Search
Manufacture

Any person who manufactures marijuana, or possesses marijuana with the intent to manufacture such substance, not for personal use is guilty of a felony punishable by mandatory imprisonment of not less than five nor more than 30 years and a fine not to exceed $10,000.

  • Va. Code Ann. § 18,2-248.1 (2015) Web Search
Trafficking

Transporting 5lbs or more of marijuana into Virginia with the intent to distribute it is a felony, punishable with a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years, a maximum sentence of 40 years, and a fine not to exceed $1,000,000. A second or subsequent conviction for the same crime raises the mandatory minimum sentence to 10 years.

  • Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-248.01 (2015) Web Search
Hash & Concentrates

In Virginia, hashish and concentrates fall under the definition of marijuana, meaning that the restrictions and penalties associated with marijuana also apply to hashish and concentrates.

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Paraphernalia

Any person who sells or possesses with intent to sell drug paraphernalia, knowing that it is either designed for use or intended by such person for use to illegally plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, inhale, or otherwise introduce into the human body marijuana is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by no more than 12 months in jail and a fine of no more than $2,500.

  • Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-11- 18.2-265.3 (2015) Web Search

Any person eighteen years of age or older who sells drug paraphernalia to a minor who is at least three years junior to the accused is guilty of an additional Class 6 felony, which is punishable by not more than 12 months in jail and a fine of not more than $2,500.

  • Va. Code. Ann § 18.2-265.3 (2015) Web Search

Advertising for the sale of drug paraphernalia is a Class I misdemeanor with a punishment of confinement for not more than 12 months in jail and a fine of not more than $2,500.

  • Va. Code Ann. §18.2-265.5 (2015) Web Search

Knowingly distributing any printed material the distributor knows contains advertisements for drug paraphernalia is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500.

  • Va. Code Ann. §18.2-265.5 (2015) Web Search
Miscellaneous
Fortified drug house

Maintaining a fortified drug house is a Class 5 felony, punishable with a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 year, and a maximum sentence of 10 years.

  • Va. Code Ann. §18.2-258.02 (2015) Web Search
More Information
Drugged Driving

Every state criminalizes driving under the influence of a controlled substance. Some jurisdictions also impose additional per se laws. In their strictest form, these laws forbid drivers from operating a motor vehicle if they have a detectable level of an illicit drug or drug metabolite (i.e., compounds produced from chemical changes of a drug in the body, but not necessarily psychoactive themselves) present in their bodily fluids above a specific, state-imposed threshold. Read further information about cannabinoids and their impact on psychomotor performance. Additional information regarding cannabinoids and proposed per se limits is available online.

Legalization

Generally, legalization means a policy that supports a legally controlled market for marijuana, where consumers can buy marijuana for personal use from a safe legal source.

Mandatory Minimum Sentence

When someone is convicted of an offense punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence, the judge must sentence the defendant to the mandatory minimum sentence or to a higher sentence. The judge has no power to sentence the defendant to less time than the mandatory minimum. A prisoner serving an MMS for a federal offense and for most state offenses will not be eligible for parole. Even peaceful marijuana smokers sentenced to “life MMS” must serve a life sentence with no chance of parole.

Medical Marijuana

This state has medical marijuana laws enacted. Modern research suggests that cannabis is a valuable aid in the treatment of a wide range of clinical applications. These include pain relief, nausea, spasticity, glaucoma, and movement disorders. Marijuana is also a powerful appetite stimulant and emerging research suggests that marijuana’s medicinal properties may protect the body against some types of malignant tumors, and are neuroprotective.

New Virginia Laws Include Legal Cannabis Possession

A slew of state legislation went into effect on July 1 in Virginia, including new laws governing cannabis possession, capital punishment, public carrying of weapons, and littering, among others. The most headline-grabbing of these is the cannabis law, which permits residents 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana (without intent to sell) and to grow up to four marijuana plants in their homes. Possession of more than an ounce but less than a pound carries a $25 penalty, and more than a pound is a felony with a 10-year sentence and a $250,000 fine.

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Under the new law, adults are permitted to smoke marijuana inside private residences but not in public, and while in a moving vehicle it may only be carried in the passenger area in “the originally sealed manufacturer’s container.” However, both this restriction and the grow-your-own plants prerogative present a conundrum, as no part of the marijuana plant, including seeds or flowers, will be legal to buy or sell until January of 2024. Adults may “share” cannabis, but may not “gift” it in tandem with another retail item as a way to get around the rule.

In anticipation of a legalized market for marijuana on the horizon, Virginia hemp growers are considering their options for expansion. While many people think of cannabis and marijuana as synonymous terms, cannabis is actually a large plant genus that encompasses both psychoactive marijuana and hemp—a versatile plant that can be used to make products from textiles to biofuels and whose seeds and oil are used in skin care products and non-intoxicating edible infusions. The defining line between the two cannabis varieties is the precise level of the toxicant THC present in the plant, which must be 0.3% or less for hemp.

White Hall-based Albemarle Hemp Company, founded in 2019 by Leigh Anne and Joe Kuhn, recently changed its name to Albemarle Cannabis Company (ACC), in part to combat the stigma associated with the word cannabis, and in part with an eye toward the future. “We’d like to see if we can expand our repertoire to include marijuana cannabis in the future, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty,” said Leigh Anne Kuhn. “We are waiting for the concrete definitions of how this is going to work for companies like ours, but we know the process will involve a lot of red tape and expensive permitting.”

ACC works with a vertically integrated supply chain of local growers and farmers to produce items such as CBD gummies, dog treats, and bubble bath. Kuhn says that the company intends to participate in the marijuana market when it is legalized but is remaining fluid in its plans, and that maintaining professionalism and integrity is crucial in both their current and future cannabis ventures.

“People still think of ‘Cheech and Chong’ when they think of marijuana cannabis, which is really an inaccurate image that we’re trying to change,” said Kuhn. “I’m hoping to work closely with, if not directly on, one or more of the regulatory boards that will be formed to guide sales. My understanding is that their target is to reinvest 30 percent of the tax profits into local communities, which I would love to see.”

It is now legal for Virginia cyclists to ride two-abreast in one traffic lane.