Cannabis in the Commonwealth: Know the rules and restrictions

Cannabis in the Commonwealth

TRI-CITIES, Tenn./Va. (WJHL) — Cannabis is now legal to use in Virginia, but there are still rules and restrictions in place for how someone can possess, grow and share the plant.

“Right now, listen face it, we know that folks in Virginia are consuming cannabis, right? That’s a fact that we know has been out there, and from a pragmatic standpoint, we want to make sure that they have a product where they know what they’re receiving,” said Sen. Jeremy McPike (D-Va), Cannabis Oversight Commission.

The use and growth of marijuana or cannabis are now legal for Virginians over the age of 21. However, adults over the age of 21 are limited to possessing one 1 oz or less. Anyone possessing between 1 ounce and 1 pound can face a civil penalty and a fine of up to $25. If you have more than a pound, you may face felony charges.

For the most part, marijuana can be used and held at private residences, but people have the right to restrict use on their property. It still remains illegal for anyone under 21 to use, purchase or grow marijuana or attempt to purchase, possess, or use.

Restrictions can still be put in place on those over 21 for a variety of reasons.

“If you have restrictions based on parole, I mean that still applies to alcohol for instance. I mean if someone’s out for drunk driving, guess what? They still have to go through substance use checks as part of a parole agreement, that’s not gonna change,” McPike said. “Likewise, if you have an employer-employee relationship many of those will still govern.”

Growing marijuana plants is now also legal for adults 21 and older. The limit is four plants per household, not per person. Those plants must be kept from public view and labeled. Measures also must be taken to keep plants away from anyone under 21. Sen. McPike explained further the need to keep the plants from view.

“Just like an enticement like an outdoor pool that requires a fence, it’s sort of the same thing, we want to make sure that the person responsible, is sort of limiting access to those plants,” McPike said.

The plants must be labeled with the adult’s name, license or ID number and a note specifying that the plant is for personal use.

Unlike other states, Virginia will not enforce a size limit for plants.

“We just thought that is a recipe for disaster of someone coming in measuring, ‘is the plant eight inches high or ten inches?’ So we just said we’re going to keep it simple and say four plants, that way there’s not a dispute or someone getting in trouble because the plants are too big or too small,” said McPike.

It remains illegal to distribute or sell marijuana or have marijuana with the intent to do so. Adults can share marijuana with other adults over the age of 21, but it cannot be exchanged in addition to another transaction, as a gift with transactions, or contingent upon another transaction of goods or services.

“The idea is to not support a defacto Black Market,” McPike said. “That’s not necessarily something we want to support, but we wanted to go through the initial steps to start the legalization process as we ramp up the retail availability and that’s going to take a little time to make sure we get it right.”

While you cannot sell marijuana, you can share it between adults.

“You can give up to an ounce as a gift, but it can’t be part of a commercial transaction,” McPike said. “So it can’t be part of a sales promotion or anything like that. You can’t pay anybody, but it can be a gift.”

If you sell or distribute marijuana or have it with the intent to sell or distribute, you will face existing criminal penalties. Those charges could be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the amount. It will not be legal to sell marijuana until January 1, 2024.

“We’re rolling up the sleeves and starting to get into those details to make sure when it is available for sale, that it’s a safe product, you know what you’re getting. You know what you’re getting in terms of THC content, there’s not contaminants, and right now you kind of don’t have any of those guarantees,” said McPike.

The Cannabis Control Authority will establish an authority to regulate the marijuana industry, including writing regulations and implementing equity and safety initiatives. The authority can begin work on July 1, 2021, but many of the regulatory sections of the cannabis use bill will need to be reapproved by the General Assembly in 2022 to become law.

More information will be released for those interested in starting a marijuana business when it becomes legal in 2024, but individuals will likely be able to apply for a marijuana business license in 2023.

“So there’s a couple steps, we’re creating a new agency,” McPike said. “So obviously, the governor has got to start to hire the staff, the senate has made the appointments to the cannabis oversight commission, which I am a member, that’ll be legislators from both the House and the Senate that will be looking as the regulations are developed to make sure we got it right, since this is a new entity and a new thing for Virginia.”

Marijuana seeds, clones, flowers and any other part of the plant are also illegal to sell until 2024. Although other states have legalized the sale of marijuana, it remains a federal crime to bring marijuana across state lines.

“The clippings and seeds aren’t yet commercially available,” said McPike. “So that is a little bit of a conundrum. Right now, you can’t transport, due to federal law, can’t transport across state lines. So that’s something we’re looking toward the federal government, as I know things are starting to change a little bit at that level as well and to see where those conversations go.”

Existing safety measures will remain in place. You can’t use marijuana while driving or while riding as a passenger in a car, you can’t have it on school grounds and you cannot use it while driving a school bus, commercial vehicle or any vehicle for hire.

“If you’ve got a job, CDL for instance, it’s not advisable to use. There’s still federal transportation laws in place, in terms of those who have CDL licenses,” McPike said. “If you have an employer who prohibits, that’s still in place, so you need to make sure if you’re going to consume, you might want to double-check your employer’s requirements in that regard.”

For more information on Cannabis laws in Virginia, click here.

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