Legalization | 08.16.2022

Road To Legalization: Is Weed Legal in Virginia?

Discussing the complicated cannabis laws in Virginia.

Would it surprise you that Virginia has plans to legalize recreational cannabis? In doing so, it would be the first southern state to pass such a law.

But “plans” is the key word. In 2021, then-Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill that would legalize the possession of recreational cannabis under 1 ounce.

He also signed a bill to decriminalize the possession of cannabis, which took effect in 2020. However, Virginians still can’t get their hands on legal weed unless they are a medical marijuana patient.

Furthermore, sales of recreational cannabis won’t begin until 2024. This was the state’s way of ensuring they had enough time to create a regulated market and ensure there are enough businesses to support consumers’ needs.

A Bill Moves Backwards

Photo by Tan Danh

It wasn’t until earlier this year in February that Republicans in the House of Delegates scrapped the bill that would have permitted retail sales of cannabis in 2022.

For now, it looks like Virginians will still have to wait until 2024 to get their hands on legal state-sold cannabis. Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin penned the budget bill for 2022, which also took a step backward on weed legalization.

The 2022 budget bill states that the personal possession of cannabis over four ounces in public is considered a crime. The bill also states that possessing under one pound of cannabis is a Class 3 misdemeanor that could result in a fine of $500. Second-time offenders can land 6 months in jail and/or a fine of $1,000.

Medical Marijuana Only

There are 8.6 million people in Virginia. Out of them are nearly 47,000 medical marijuana patients.

As of now, the only way to purchase legal cannabis in Virginia is if you’re a registered medical patient. But a relatively small number of patients compared to the state’s population means there could be a shortage of medicine if more individuals decide to register as medical patients.

While we wait for recreational sales to begin in 2024, the 2022 General Assembly is overlooking a few portions of the bill to roll out a regulated market as soon as possible.

Some of these revisions include;

  • Ensuring there are social equity advantages for most-impacted communities
  • How to handle the previous incarcerations of individuals in prison for non-violent cannabis crimes
  • Creating a scheme to ensure that recreational retail sales start by 2024

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