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Marijuana legalization in Virginia begins July 1. To help Virginians understand what this means, the state launched a new cannabis website on Thursday with information, updates and answers to questions about the law, tweeted Governor Ralph Northam.
On April 7, Virginia became the first state in the South to begin the process of legalizing adult-use cannabis, the site states.
What exactly does begin the process mean?
It means the marijuana legalization bill that was passed by the 2021 General Assembly is going to take three years to be implemented. This includes setting up regulations for pot retail sales and implementing procedures that prioritize social equity, public health and public safety.
The website provides general information about each of these three years, but it doesn’t answer some basic questions we have about the year ahead. Instead, it explains (sort of) what you can and can’t do and leaves it up to the public to figure out the murky areas.
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Virginia marijuana laws: Year 1
Legalization of simple possession and home cultivation for adults 21 years old and older.
The cannabis website states: “It will remain 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.”
What is missing from this statement is:
- in public (on your person)
- in private (home possession)
Big difference between the two in terms of Virginia code.
First, let’s dissect plant from pot.
When it comes to the amount of pot you are growing versus the amount of pot you have in your possession at home, it changes from plant to marijuana once it is harvested and cut off the plant.
Presumably, if you end up harvesting more than four ounces from your four pot plants and then put in a safe in your home, that’s not explicitly illegal. That’s literally not in the Virginia code. The law doesn’t state you can’t possess more than one ounce in private.
“I get by with a little help from my friends”
Beginning July 1, adults 21 and older can grow up to four marijuana plants per household (not per person), for personal use. Plants can be grown only at your main place of residence, the site states.
Great! Where do I buy the seeds?
Here’s where the state’s new website gets confusing, again. Instead of immediately stating there is no place to legally buy seeds and there won’t be until 2024, instead it answers this frequently asked question by stating it is illegal to sell marijuana products (for retail adult-use). The state also explains that it is illegal to bring it across the state lines.
More: Where can you buy marijuana seeds legally in Virginia? Growing your own under new laws.
But a little further down is a section that explains what adult sharing means, and legally you can share up to a certain amount as long as you don’t buy it or sell it.
So basically, you’re going to have to find someone who is growing pot plants, don’t ask where or how they got the seeds and adult-share so you can legally bring home a small handful of seeds to plant on your property.
“But let’s be honest,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, development director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), who also serves as the state chapter Virginia NORML’s executive director.
“Virginia’s illicit cannabis market ranks fourth in the nation and is valued at roughly 1.8 billion dollars annually,” said Pedini. “Prior to decriminalization taking effect in 2020, the Commonwealth was arresting upwards of 30,000 Virginians annually for marijuana possession. So while Virginians are asking, ‘where can get I cannabis legally,’ it’s unlikely Virginians are asking, ‘where can I get cannabis.”https://www.newsleader.com/”
Creation of a new state authority to regulate the marijuana industry in Virginia.
The Cannabis Control Authority will be establish a board in Summer 2021. Currently, the board is vacant and will be filled with members serving a five-year term. The qualifications include state residency and business and law experience. It doesn’t require a medical background or experience specific to the marijuana industry. This board will set up and enforce marijuana regulations in the state.
Virginia marijuana laws: Years 2–3
Year 2: Following reenactment by the 2022 General Assembly, the Cannabis Control Authority, advised by a Health Advisory Council, will complete regulations, implement a social equity program, and issue business licenses, the website states.
Year 3: On January 1, 2024, assuming reenactment, legal sales to adults 21 and older can begin, the website states.
“To those interested in the future of cannabis in Virginia, my advice is to keep in mind that the majority of the bill, which largely includes the regulatory language, requires reenactment by the 2022 General Assembly,” said Pedini. “What was introduced in 2021 by the administration will be heavily revised prior to its introduction in the 2022 session. There’s ample room for improvement, and you can expect just that.”
So basically, don’t invest too much energy in figuring out what is going to happen down the road.
One area on the state’s new cannabis site that is new and helpful is information on marijuana licensure. While the state creating a new website to educate the public on cannabis legalization is an encouraging step, when it comes to understanding marijuana laws in Virginia, read the experts who quote the law and visit Virginia NORML.
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Monique Calello (she/her) is The News Leader’s health reporter. Story ideas? I want to hear them. Please email me at email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @moniquecalello.
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