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is it illegal to possess marijuana seeds in virginia

Virginia Marijuana Laws, Penalties, & Sales

Virginia cannabis laws weren’t as in-depth in 2020. But on April 7, 2021, everything changed when Virginia became the first Southern state to start the process of making adult-use cannabis legal.

But what do these laws say? Can Virginians possess marijuana for recreational use legally? Or will they continue to be limited to medical cannabis?

More importantly, what does marijuana legalization in Virginia mean for business operators?

Interested in expanding your adult-use or medical marijuana business in Virginia? Northstar is here to help!

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Virginia Marijuana Legalization 2021

HB2312 (Herring) and SB1406 (Ebbin; Lucas) were introduced by Governor Northam and passed by the 2021 General Assembly. These laws prioritize social equity, public health, and public safety while outlining a three-year road map to legalize cannabis and create a regulatory framework for marijuana sales.

Upon the authorization of the new state authority working to regulate the space, changes to the law began to take effect on July 1, 2021. This law legalizes simple possession up to one ounce and home cultivation for adults 21 years of age or older.’

The Cannabis Control Authority in Virginia is advised by a Health Advisory Council. Once the 2022 General Assembly completes its reenactment, the Virginia CCA will complete its list of regulations, implement its social equity program, and begin issuing cannabis business licenses. As long as the reenactment happens, retail sales of cannabis products to adults 21 years of age or older will begin on January 1, 2024.

What Changed on July 1, 2021?

Virginia Legalization Changes

Adults 21 years of age or older are now allowed to possess marijuana. However, they cannot hold onto more than an ounce at a time.

While adults are allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use, they can feel comfortable consuming it at private residences, too. Even with this being the case, private residence owners are still allowed to restrict the use of cannabis products on-site.

Besides being allowed to possess not more than one ounce of marijuana, adults at least 21 years old can grow up to four plants per household. This means that regardless of the number of adults living at a residence, only four plants can be grown for home cultivation purposes.

Adult sharing is also allowed. For those who haven’t heard of adult sharing, this involves transferring not more than one ounce of marijuana between adults 21 years of age or older. If someone wants to transfer more than an ounce, this would be classified with retail sales.

However, adult sharing has its limitations. Instances that do the following are not considered adult sharing:

  • Marijuana that’s given away in trade for a separate reciprocal transaction between the same parties.
  • Marijuana that’s provided or advertised as a gift that comes with a purchase of goods or services.
  • Marijuana that’s given as a gift after someone purchases goods or services.
What Remains Illegal?

Virginia Marijuana Possession Laws

While Virginians can consume marijuana, it’s still illegal to possess more than one ounce of marijuana. Anyone who is found guilty of possessing beyond an ounce but less than a pound must pay a civil penalty that does not exceed $25. Anyone found guilty of possessing beyond a pound of marijuana faces a felony charge.

If someone is under the age of 21, they cannot consume, purchase, or possess marijuana. This, of course, includes attempting to consume, purchase, or possess this plant.

Medical cannabis legality differs, of course. But the patient must have a guardian and a recommendation for medical cannabis from a doctor specializing in chronic and debilitating diseases. When it comes to the human body, marijuana for medical applications is permitted for those under the age of 21.

Distributing or selling marijuana and/or possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute or sell it is still illegal. Businesses are also not allowed to sell, “gift,” or distribute marijuana in any other way without the appropriate license.

It’s also illegal to operate a motor vehicle, including a motor vehicle transporting passengers, while under the influence of marijuana use. This action could put a person at risk of losing his or her driver’s license.

Marijuana possession on school grounds is also prohibited, as is operating a school bus after marijuana use. It’s also still illegal to consume cannabis while operating a commercial vehicle, which includes driving a school bus. Even cannabis oil or marijuana concentrate consumption before driving is an offense that can result in the loss of a person’s driver’s license.

Also, this isn’t a new law, but to consume marijuana products or offer marijuana to another person in a public place is not legal in Virginia.

Laws About Virginia Marijuana Plants

Virginia rules on cannabis plants offer several opportunities to ganjapreneurs. Working in this space does not mean your customers have to purchase cannabis from your location.

Rather than sell marijuana, a Virginia cannabusiness can offer the support a private residence needs for home cultivation. Now that home grows are legal in Virginia, here’s what home growers can do at a private residence:

Home Cultivation: Up to Four Plants

Home cultivators are allowed to grow up to four plants per household. However, while growing for personal use is legal, cultivating for commercial marijuana sales remains illegal without the proper licensure.

Virginia Cannabis Control Authority (CCA)

The Virginia CCA has a Business Equity & Diversity Support Team. This team will give technical assistance to qualified applicants, perform outreach throughout the regions most damaged by marijuana prohibition, and determine potential barriers to entry for minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

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The CCA will also handle a loan program that will give loans to qualified social equity cannabis licensees. In turn, the expectation is that business ownership and economic growth in the communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition will thrive.

The new law also creates the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund. Through this community-led fund, 30% of all tax profits will be utilized to directly confront the economic disinvestment and disproportionate enforcement of drug laws with resources that will support the proper responses to these impacts.

Virginia Cannabis Laws & Adult-Use Commercial Sales

Virginia Cannabis Industry Regulation

The Cannabis Control Authority will be responsible for regulating Virginia’s marijuana industry. This includes issuing cannabis business licenses, creating health and safety guidelines, and promoting diversity in the space.

Governor Northam has already appointed members to the CCA’s Board of Directors. The Board will work with the CEO to create the recreational cannabis marketplace. However, the CCA expects to finish the list of regulations and start accepting cannabis business license applications in 2023.

How to Apply for a Marijuana Business License in Virginia

Recreational use marijuana sales will not happen before 2024. At this point, it’s still a crime to sell anything other than medical cannabis.

Licensing provisions of the bill must be reenacted during the 2022 General Assembly session. Once this happens, entrepreneurs will probably be able to apply for a Virginia marijuana business license in 2023.

Steps to Take Before Applying in 2023

While we all hope federal law legalizes cannabis and cannabis oil nationwide, the CCA will be the authority in VA. The Board members have been appointed, but the regulatory process is still being created.

Once the regulations are in place, the CCA will start engaging with interested stakeholders. But we expect this to take around two years before you can begin preparing to apply.

How Will the Licensing Process Work?

Licensing will not start until the CCA has hired staff and created regulations. Furthermore, we’re still waiting on the bill to be approved again by the 2022 General Assembly. Thus, we cannot determine exactly what will be involved in the licensing process.

Marijuana Plant Possession

Personal use and possession are now legal in Virginia. The law’s provisions do not allow anyone under the age of 21 to possess marijuana.

Cultivation of Marijuana Plants

Home cultivation is allowed as of July 1, 2021. This allows people to grow up to for plants per household at their primary place of residence.

However, this comes with some rules, including:

  • Plants may not be publicly visible;
  • Precautions must be taken to prevent unauthorized access for persons younger than 21;
  • Each plant must have a legible tag including the person’s name, driver’s license or ID number, and a notation highlighting that the plant is for personal use as authorized by the state.

If you want to grow four plants at home, it’s still challenging to buy seeds or clones. The law doesn’t allow people to sell marijuana seeds, flower, clones, and other parts of the marijuana plant within this state.

Even though other states have made marijuana sales legal, it’s still federally illegal to bring these products across state lines. It’s also not legal to sell or distribute cannabis from home, nor is it legal to manufacture cannabis oil or concentrate.

Selling/Manufacturing/Trafficking Marijuana Plants

While someone might get a civil penalty for some marijuana-related offenses, illegal businesses or individuals in possession of large quantities of legal marijuana isn’t enough to prove intent to distribute. However, if someone is caught in possession of and distributing beyond an ounce but less than five pounds, they’re breaking the law and will face a Class 5 felony that’s punishable by a minimum of one year but not more than 10 years in prison. For first-time offenders, a judge can use his or her discretion for the sentence of not more than 12 months in jail and a fine that does not exceed $2500.

Someone caught distributing beyond five pounds but less than 100kg is committing a felony. The law states that this is punishable by a minimum of five years but not more than 30 years in prison.

If someone is caught distributing beyond 100kg of marijuana, they face an automatic 20 years to a life sentence in prison. However, the mandatory minimum can be reduced by the judge if the offender meets the following criteria:

  1. First offense/no prior convictions for drug-related offenses;
  2. No use of violence or credible threats of violence, no dangerous weapon used while committing the offense, and did not convince another participant in the offense;
  3. No deaths or serious bodily injuries occurred to any person as a result of the offense;
  4. The offender wasn’t an organizer, manager, leader, or supervisor of others in the offense and did not engage in a continuing criminal enterprise; and
  5. The offender cooperated with police and judicial officials by giving information and evidence to the State.

Virginia Recreational and Medical Marijuana Laws

While Virginia is a long way off from receiving federal funding and an education program for the cannabis space, the state has made some tremendous strides. Registered patients still have access to their medicine to some degree, and we can expect regulatory sections in these laws to open the doors for business operators interested in this space.

Opportunities will reveal themselves over the next few years. But until then, it’s important to stay vigilant in checking the updates to regulatory sections as the CCA makes them.

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Now is the time to begin scaling ancillary operations in Virginia! While the ball is rolling for legalization, marijuana sales in VA will not happen for a few years. But we answered some of the questions you might have in this Virginia Marijuana Legalization FAQ.

Looking to scale your cannabis business to prepare for VA’s green rush? Northstar is ready to help!

Contact us now to speak with one of our experts about how financial services will grow your business in this budding space!

First look: Will weed stay legal in Virginia?

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After retaking the House of Delegates and Governor’s Mansion during last year’s election, prefiled bills show Republicans are seeking to reverse many policies enacted by Democrats over the past few years, from the expansion of absentee voting to trans-inclusive policies in schools.

One of the most prominent legislative victories for Democrats was the legalization of marijuana, but the bill came with some key caveats that will be important over the next few years.

First, the bill only immediately legalized personal possession, so while individuals can posses up to one ounce of marijuana without facing any penalty (or grow up to four plants per household) amounts above that still carry a criminal penalty.

Second, Democrats included a “reenactment clause” which requires another vote sometime during 2022 to finalize the framework for commercial sales. Right now, commercial sales are slated to begin in 2024, but that’s only if Republicans – who now control the House of Delegates and Governor’s Mansion – agree to help pass the regulatory framework.

Is a repeal on the way?

So is a repeal on the docket for this General Assembly session?

No — in fact, Republicans have advanced several pieces of legislation tacitly acknowledging that legal weed is probably here to stay. Now, the question is what, exactly, legalization will look like.

HB 950 and SB 391 — patroned by Republican Del. Michael Webbert and Democratic state Sen. Adam Ebbin, respectively — provide divergent visions of how legalized commercial sales should take place.

The Senate version would take effect on Jan. 1, 2023, while the House version would see sales begin a year later, on Jan. 1 2024. The House version also specifies regulations on the related hemp industry, including hemp for recreational use, while the Senate version includes provisions related to the expungement of past marijuana convictions.

But the key takeaway is that both Republicans and Democrats are advancing bills that would legalize commercial sale — all that remains is to hammer out the details and the timeline.

Criminal Justice

One of the important aspects of the debate over marijuana policy has been what rules will be applied to law enforcement and those previously incarcerated for marijuana offenses.

HB 280, patroned by Republican Del. Carrie Coyner, would grant anyone convicted of a marijuana offense in Virginia a hearing to reduce or vacate their sentence, potentially granting them release from prison.

The release of those incarcerated under previous drug laws — and the expungement of those convictions, as included in SB 391 — have been a major priority of marijuana justice advocates.

HB 79, patroned by Republican Del. Ronnie Campbell, would reverse a law passed last year restricting the reasons for which a police officer can pull over a driver. Some of those reasons include loud exhaust systems, objects hanging from mirrors and lack of a license plate light.

But the key policy change is a provision that would allow police officers to pull people over, stop them on the street or initiate a search because of the odor of marijuana. Such preemptive stops were outlawed by Democrats last year as part of the legalization of weed.

What to do about Equity

In the House and the Senate, two Republican legislators are putting forward competing visions for the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund established by Democrats during last year’s legalization effort. The fund will draw 30 percent of state revenues from marijuana sales when commercial sale commences, and distribute them as grants for those living in areas disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

SB 107, patroned by Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, would effectively dissolve the fund by cutting off its revenue. The funds would then be redirected to the General Fund, to be distributed during the normal budget process.

HB 176 comes from the opposite side of the capitol and is being patroned by Republican Del. Daniel W. Marshall. While Norment’s bill is designed to effectively end the equity fund, Marshall’s would expand its scope by adding those living in economically distressed localities to the eligibility criteria.

Norment and Marshall are both long-serving Republican legislators, but while Norment is in Senate party leadership, Marshall does not hold a similar position in the House. Nevertheless, Norment’s proposal may face strong opposition in the Democrat-controlled Senate, while Marshall may find more allies among Democrats willing to adjust the equity fund rather than eliminating it entirely.

Limiting Sales

Republicans have also filed bills that would place restrictions on where and how marijuana can be sold, once commercial sales begin.

HB 43, patroned by Republican Del. Lee Ware, would require that a referendum be held before a marijuana dispensary can be opened in a locality. This would effectively give local residents control over whether commercial licenses are granted in their area, but it would not change the legal status of marijuana itself in the localities.

Ware is also patron of HB 72, which would ban marijuana farms from selling plants or seeds to customers. The legislation, like all legislation relating to commercial sales, would only go into effect if the General Assembly acts to approve a framework for commercial sales.

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HB 984 would establish penalties for selling cannabis to an underage person if that person then drives intoxicated and injures someone. This would mark a major difference between marijuana and alcohol laws in Virginia, since the same liability isn’t applied to those who provide alcohol to minors.

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Virginia marijuana legalization timetable has many confused

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s road to legalizing simple possession of marijuana has had some twists and turns, so it’s not surprising that advocacy groups have been flooded with calls from people trying to understand exactly what will be allowed under state law as of July 1.

Legislators initially voted in February to legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for adult recreational use, but not until 2024, when retail sales would begin. An outcry ensued over the three-year wait before ending pot possession penalties, so in April they voted to move up legalization to this July 1.

Adding to the confusion: lawmakers included a “reenactment clause,” which means the General Assembly will have to vote again next year on major portions of the law, mainly to establish a regulatory framework for the legal marijuana marketplace.

The process has resulted in some contradictions that may not get resolved until years after legalization begins.

Sen. Adam Ebbin, one of the lead sponsors, said people need to understand the law’s limits for now. Possession of up to one ounce (28.3 grams) with no intent to distribute will become legal for adults, 21 and older. Adults will also be allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants per household. But not much else will change.

“People still need to be careful — this is not an official open marijuana market,” Ebbin said.

Virginia is joining 17 other states with laws allowing adults to possess and consume marijuana. In each one, laws have legalized simple possession before establishing a legal marketplace for buying and selling marijuana, said Jenn Michelle Pedini, the development director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Under Virginia’s law, buying and selling marijuana will remain illegal until Jan. 1, 2024, when retail sales are expected to begin. Smoking marijuana in public also remains against the law.

Pedini, who is also the executive director of Virginia NORML, said the organization fields questions every day from people who are surprised to learn that selling pot won’t be allowed for another three years.

“The only legal sale of cannabis in Virginia is through the medical (marijuana) program,” Pedini said.

Virginia NORML has a page on its website to answer frequently asked questions and clear up confusion. The state also launched a website to answer questions about the new law.

Although people can legally cultivate marijuana plants beginning July 1, it will still be illegal for anyone to buy cannabis seeds or cuttings needed to grow those plants. That’s one of the contradictions bothering Republican Sen. Ryan McDougle, who voted against the legislation.

“The biggest inconsistency is you cannot legally buy marijuana for recreational use in the commonwealth of Virginia,” McDougle said.

“Under federal rules you can’t transport it (into Virginia), but if you have it, you can possess up to one ounce of it in Virginia. How you get that is the inconsistency. You can’t legally get it, but you can possess it,” he said.

In the original bill, both possession and sales of marijuana would have been legalized in 2024. But many social justice advocates pushed to immediately end the disparate treatment of people of color under existing marijuana laws.

The General Assembly’s research and watchdog agency found that from 2010-2019, Black Virginians were 3.5 times more likely than white Virginians to be arrested for marijuana possession, and 3.9 times more likely to be convicted, even though both populations used marijuana at similar rates.

“We want to do this the right way, and what that means is ending the disparate enforcement, which is going to make a huge change in the lives of thousands of Virginians,” said Alena Yarmosky, Gov. Ralph Northam’s spokeswoman. She said the administration also recognizes the “reality” that “people have marijuana now,” even though it is illegal in Virginia.

According to New Frontier Data’s U.S. Cannabis Report, Virginia had the fourth-largest illicit market last year, encompassing about $1.8 billion, or 3%, of an estimated $60 billion in total illicit sales nationwide.

“Because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level and because Virginia needs time to stand-up the regulatory structure for safe sales, it will not be legal to sell seeds or other marijuana until 2024,” Yarmosky said.

People will be allowed to share small amounts of seeds with one another, but they can’t sell them.

“The primary objective of legalization is to reduce criminalization and then to regulate safe legal access, so we’re checking one box, but we’re not checking the other this year,” Pedini said.

Pedini said may states have expedited adult access to marijuana through their medical marijuana dispensaries, something advocates hope Virginia lawmakers will vote to do in 2022. “Most people aren’t going to grow cannabis, but most people who will want to participate in the adult use market will prefer to do so through a legal avenue,” Pedini said.