Virginia marijuana laws are progressing. This February, the state’s lawmakers decided to make it the 16th state to legalize marijuana. However, by the summer, Governor Ralph Northam would like to legalize simple possession. He claims this will be something he’ll do to promote social equity.
“We know that black and whites use marijuana at the same rate, but blacks are three to four times more likely to be arrested and convicted,” Gov. Northam explained. “This is wrong and we’re going to right a wrong and take that step in Virginia.”
If the governor makes these amendments, adults 21 years old and older will be allowed to legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis without the intent to distribute. This would start July 1. The amendments would also permit home cultivation, with households able to grow up to four plants.
But there’s more to it than that.
Besides this regular legislative session that concluded on March 1, Gov. Northam was given around 30 days to propose amendments, sign, or veto the legislation. Here’s a list of the key provisions of the legislation:
- Legalize simple possession of adult-use marijuana effective July 1, 2021 (still need approval of this amendment);
- Create an independent agency called the Cannabis Control Authority of Virginia (CCA of Virginia) to regulate retail adult-use marijuana and Virginia’s medical cannabis program;
- Create a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund;
- Outline parameters for marijuana cultivation, wholesaling, manufacturing, and retail licenses and specific equity license qualifications;
- Establish the Virginia Cannabis Equity Business Loan Fund;
- Establish penalties for adult-use public possession and consumption, illegal distribution, transporting marijuana across state lines, and consumption in motor vehicles;
- Permit cultivation of up to four plants per household effective July 1, 2021 (still need approval of this amendment);
- Establish a taxation structure (21 percent excise tax with an allowance for localities to charge another 3 percent tax); and
- Excise tax revenues for cannabis sales.
Virginia Marijuana Laws & Penalties 2021
While Virginia marijuana law has progressed, it’s still important to remain aware of what is and isn’t legal. Here’s a list of Virginia marijuana laws and penalties to keep in mind for 2021:
Marijuana Possession in Virginia
Marijuana possession in Virginia is a Civil Violation for up to 1 ounce. If you’re caught with an ounce or less of marijuana in VA, you can expect to pay up to $25 in fines.
Marijuana Sales, Manufacturing, & Trafficking in Virginia: The Basics
Anything over one ounce of marijuana in Virginia is considered a felony. If you’re caught with 1 ounce to five pounds, you’re facing 1 to 10 years in prison and up to $2,500 in fines.
However, if you’re arrested with 5 pounds to 100 kilograms, you’ll face 5 to 30 years of incarceration and up to $1,000 in fines. Beyond 100 kilograms of marijuana in Virginia is a sentence of 20 years to life, with fines of up to $100,000.
Selling marijuana to a minor – at least 3 years younger – is a felony charge that could carry two to 50 years and up to $100,000 in fines. If it’s within 1,000 feet of a school or school bus stop, this is a felony that carries a charge of one to five years, with fines up to $100,000.
Manufacturing marijuana in Virginia is also a felony. This charge carries from five to 30 years incarceration, and can result in fines of up to $10,000. However, if you’re transporting beyond five pounds of marijuana into Virginia, you can face a felony charge carrying 5 to 40 years imprisonment and fines up to $1,000,000.
Hash and concentrates have the same rules as marijuana laws in Virginia.
Paraphernalia Laws in Virginia
Selling or possessing with intent to sell paraphernalia is a misdemeanor charge that’s punishable by up to 1 year incarceration and up to $2,500 in fines. Selling paraphernalia to a minor who’s at least 3 years younger is a felony. This is punishable by up to one year in prison and $2,500 in fines.
Civil Asset Forfeiture Cannabis Law in Virginia
Assets, including but not limited to vehicles, are seizable during civil proceedings. This can occur regardless of whether the state brings criminal charges.
Marijuana Possession Laws in Virginia
In 2020, Gov. Northam approved Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 972 to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses in VA. This took effect on July 1, 2020. With this law, penalties for cannabis offenses involving up to one ounce of marijuana became a civil violation. It also sealed past marijuana convictions from school administrators and employers. Another piece of legislation, SB 5013, was signed into law in October 2020. This allows people who’ve been summoned to prepay their fine instead of being forced to make a court appearance.
Marijuana Sale & Delivery Laws in VA: The Specifics
Marijuana sales and delivery are not legal in Virginia. However, simply possessing a lot of marijuana does not prove intent to distribute. Someone who distributes between one ounce and 5 pounds of marijuana is committing a Class 5 felony. This is punishable by a minimum of one year but not beyond 10 years incarceration. But if it’s a first time offense, the judge may initiate a sentence in jail of 12 months or less, and a fine that doesn’t exceed $2,500.
For distribution of beyond 5 pounds but less than 100kg, you can expect a felony with between 5 and 30 years prison time. But if it’s more than 100kg, you could face 20 years to life. The judge may offer some leniency if the following applies:
- You lack prior drug-related convictions;
- You were not violent or threatening violence, nor in possession of a dangerous weapon while committing the offense, nor did you convince anyone else participating in the offense to do this;
- Your offense didn’t cause any serious bodily harm or result in the death of any person;
- You cooperate with police and judicial officials, providing all information and evidence concerning the case to the State;
- You were not the leader, manager, supervisor, or organizer of others involved in the offense, and were not engaged in a continuing criminal operation.
Intent to distribute or third sale convictions result in minimum 5 year sentencing. But if you’re distributing beyond an ounce to someone under 18 years of age who is a minimum of 3 years younger than you, or utilizing a minor to distribute beyond an ounce of marijuana, this is a felony that’s punishable with a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years. The maximum sentence is 50 years with a fine not exceeding $100,000.
Distributing beyond a half-ounce of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school or school bus stop is also a felony. This is punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 year and maximum of 5 years. The fine cannot exceed $100,000. But if the person can prove that they were selling only to accommodate someone else and not to profit, the charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor that’s punishable by 12 months jail time and a fine that won’t exceed $2,500.
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