On April 7, after a five-week delay, the Virginia legislature confirmed its support for adult-use cannabis legalization. Gov. Ralph Northam signed the legislation on April 21.
Northam submitted an amendment to HB 2312, which passed on February 27. The biggest issue was speeding up the process from 2024 to 2021. It reads, in part:
"The proposal would establish a licensing and regulation system for cannabis cultivation facilities, cannabis manufacturing facilities, cannabis testing facilities and retail cannabis stores by the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority, effective July 1, 2024. The proposal repeals § 18.2-248.1, § 18.2-250.1, and § 18.2-251.1 related to marijuana possession, manufacture and distribution. Effective July 1, 2021, there would be no criminal or civil penalties for possession of up to one ounce of retail marijuana by persons who are 21 years of age or older, and persons 21 years of age or older may cultivate up to four marijuana plants for personal use at their place of. Possession of more than one ounce of retail marijuana by a person 21 or older would be subject to a civil penalty of no more than $25; however, possession of marijuana by a person under 21 would be would be subject to no more than $25 civil penalty and mandatory participation in a substance abuse treatment or education program or both."
The amended bill also includes automatic expungement for prior marijuana offenses.
Just a few short years ago, the Commonwealth was a red state where a marijuana offense could get you sent to the penitentiary for years. But, in 2020, the legislature passed a decrim bill, which the Governor signed.
Wasting no time in 2021, the Senate and the House of Delegates, known as the General Assembly, moved ahead with legalization bills - Senate Bill 1406 and HB 2312 - that were passed on February 5. On January 20, a Senate panel voted 4-3 to advance the legislation.
A compromise bill passed both chambers on February 27. Not one Republican voted for marijuana legalization.
Thanks to Northam and the Democratic majority in Richmond, Virginia now joins 17 other states that have legalized recreational or adult-use cannabis.
New York and New Mexico also recently legalized mariijuana. Connecticut is poised to become No. 19.
On Election Day, voters passed legalization in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota. In South Dakota, the amendment has been been overturned by a circuit court judge. It's being appealed to the Supreme Court.
The other legal rec states are Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
In November, Northam stated in a press release:
“It’s time to legalize marijuana in Virginia. Our Commonwealth has an opportunity to be the first state in the South to take this step, and we will lead with a focus on equity, public health and public safety. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to get this right.”
Homegrow Is Allowed!
The "home cultivation" section of HB 2312 reads as follows:
§4.1-1110. Home cultivation of marijuana for personal use; penalties.
A. A person 21 years of age or older may cultivate up to four mature marijuana plants for personal use at their place of residence; however, at no point shall a household contain more than four mature marijuana plants. For purposes of this section, a "household" means those individuals, whether related or not, who live in the same house or other place of residence.
A person may only cultivate marijuana plants pursuant to this section at such person's main place of residence.
B. A person who cultivates marijuana for personal use pursuant to this section shall:
1. Ensure that the marijuana is not visible from a public way without the use of aircraft, binoculars, or other optical aids;
2. Take reasonable precautions to prevent unauthorized access by persons younger than 21 years of age; and
3. Attach to each mature marijuana plant and immature marijuana plant 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 as authorized under this section.
C. A person shall not manufacture marijuana concentrate from home-cultivated marijuana. The owner of a property or parcel or tract of land may not intentionally or knowingly allow another person to manufacture marijuana concentrate from home-cultivated marijuana within or on that property or land.
D. The following penalties or punishments shall be imposed on any person convicted of a violation of this section:
1. For possession of more than four marijuana plants but not more than 10 marijuana plants, (i) a civil penalty of $250 for a first offense, (ii) a Class 3 misdemeanor for a second offense, and (iii) a Class 2 misdemeanor for a third and any subsequent offense;
2. For possession of more than 10 but no more than 49 marijuana plants, a Class 1 misdemeanor;
3. For possession of 49 to 100 marijuana plants, a Class 6 felony; and
4. For possession of over 100 marijuana plants, a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than 10 years and a fine of not more than $250,000, or both.
This article was originally posted on Nov. 11, 2020. It has been updatd several times.