Marijuana Becomes Legal in Virginia this Summer

On April 21st, Governor Ralph Northam signed House Bill 3212 and Senate Bill 1406 making Virginia the first southern state to legalize the possession and use of marijuana by adults and accelerating a revamp of cannabis laws that have disproportionately jailed Americans of color for nonviolent offenses. The Virginia General Assembly passed the bill earlier this month after Northam sent the original measure back to the legislature with a series of revisions, including a proposal to accelerate the timeline of its enactment to July instead of January 1, 2024. The governor strongly advocated for cannabis reform, and when the governor formally submitted substitute language to the bills last month, both chambers approved the proposed changes as suggested earlier this month- which in turn meant that no further action was needed from Northam to enact them into law.

What this really comes down to is that people will no longer be arrested or face penalties for simple possession that follow and affects lives. According to court records analyzed by Virginia Public Media, black Virginians are still four times more likely than whites to face a court summons for possession of marijuana. 

So, starting on the first of July, adults 21 years old or older, can legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana without intent to distribute. Adults caught with more than an ounce but less than a pound will face a $25 fine, and adults caught with more than a pound can be charged with a felony punishable between one and 10 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

You can grow up to 4 plants per household. The plants should be kept away from public view, and each one should have a legible tag that includes the person’s name and driver’s license or identification number. and note that they are being grown for personal use. The bill also “modifies several other criminal penalties related to marijuana, and imposes limits on dissemination of criminal history record information related to certain marijuana offenses.”

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers:

  1. Can you use marijuana publicly? No. Public use of the plant will be prohibited. 
  2. What does the law say about sharing marijuana? It says that adults sharing marijuana products that do not exceed once ounce, or 28.3 grams, will not face civil or criminal penalties. However, the law states that adults cannot gift marijuana in conjunction with the sale of goods or services.
  3. How about transporting marijuana? It cannot be imported, shipped, transported into Virginia.

When it comes to the retail selling of marijuana, it’s estimated to take years before legal retail sales follow legalized possession. The bill lays out the complex process of creating a new state agency to oversee the marijuana marketplace, with sales beginning and regulations taking effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

According to a poll released in February, there was strong support among Virginians to legalize marijuana. It found that more than two-thirds of adults in the Commonwealth (68 percent) favor adult-use legalization, including a slim majority (51 percent) of Republican voters.

The governor also asked the legislature to adopt an amendment to expedite automatic expungements for people with prior marijuana convictions, and they accepted that request. The governor noted that’s “71 days from now,” but “who’s counting?” 


I’d like to thank and for some of the information I used in this story. 

For AMR News, I’m Abby Dufour 

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Abby Dufour

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