All across our country, the movement to legalize marijuana is gaining momentum. More and more states are either decriminalizing marijuana or making it legal, and Virginia is no exception.
In the last few years, marijuana has become a topic of discussion in Virginia politics. On April 7, 2021, a majority of the Virginia legislature voted to approve amendments that would legalize the personal use and possession of marijuana. This went into effect on July 1, 2021.
For many of us, this feels like a whole new world. After all, marijuana had been illegal for decades. You’ve probably got a lot of questions about how this all works, which is why we’ve written this guide. We’ll start by looking at how marijuana possession works in Virginia currently. After discussing marijuana possession, we’ll look at whether or not you can now cultivate your own marijuana plants. Finally, we’ll briefly look at other important marijuana laws in Virginia that you should be aware of.
How Much Marijuana Can You Possess in Virginia?
Possession of marijuana used to be a drug crime, no matter how much marijuana you had on you. You can find stories throughout history of people being charged for having as little as a joint or even just some marijuana residue left over in a pipe. Nowadays, something as small as this wouldn’t be considered a crime.
It’s important to understand that all possession of marijuana in Virginia is now legal across the board no matter the amount. When it comes to possession of marijuana in Virginia, it may or may not be a crime. Important determining factors are your age and how much marijuana you possessed.
You can only possess up to 1 oz of marijuana in public. If you have 1 oz or less of marijuana, there is no penalty.
You would be guilty of a civil violation if you have more than 1 oz to 4 oz. The first civil violation would result in a $25 fine. This means you have to pay a fine but don’t get a criminal record from the encounter. Multiple violations can result in more severe punishments and admittance to a drug abuse program.
Possession of more than 4 oz and up to 1 lb of marijuana is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $500 on the first offense. Second and subsequent offenses are Class 2 misdemeanors punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 fine and/or up to six months in jail.
Possession of more than a pound of marijuana in public, regardless of any prior convictions, is a felony for which you can be sentenced to ten years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.
Can You Legally Grow Marijuana in Virginia?
Another change is that now you are able to cultivate up to four marijuana plants for personal use in Virginia. Keep in mind that you must be over the age of 21, the plants must be cultivated at your primary residence, and they cannot be visible from a public way (without the use of planes, binoculars, or other optical devices). Additionally, each plant must have a tag that lists the cultivator’s name, driver’s license or ID number, and a notice that states the plant is for personal use under Virginia Code § 4.1-1101.
With these requirements kept in mind, the following chart explores what you can cultivate and when cultivation is considered illegal:
- Up to 4: You can legally cultivate up to four marijuana plants. This is not a crime, though you may face civil fines of $25 per plant for a failure to attach a tag as mentioned above, $25 for failure to prevent access to persons younger than 21, and $25 for the plants being visible from a public way.
- Between 5 to 10: It is a civil offense to grow more than four marijuana plants but less than eleven. A civil fine of $250 can be imposed on a first offense. A second offense becomes a misdemeanor with up to $500 in fines. A third offense is a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,000 and the potential for six months in jail.
- Between 11 to 49: This is a Class 1 misdemeanor with a fine of up to $2,500 and up to 12 months in jail.
- Between 50 and 100: This is a Class 6 felony charge that can result in one to five years in prison, or up to twelve months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
- More than 100: This is a Class 5 felony charge that can result in one to ten years in prison, or up to twelve months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500..
What Other Marijuana Laws Should I Know About?
It is worth noting that the sale of marijuana is still very much illegal. The penalties for the sale of marijuana are far, far harsher than any of the laws for possession. Given that possession of certain amounts of marijuana is legal, being in possession of a large amount of marijuana may not support an inference one possesses the marijuana with an intent to distribute.
One key to remember with these marijuana laws we’ve talked about, possession and cultivation specifically, is that we have been discussing personal use. Distributing, selling, trading or providing marijuana to another for any form of “remuneration” is still not permitted. Basically, if the party transferring it receives anything of value for it then that transaction is illegal. This is found in new code section 4.1-1101.1, which limits the amount that adults over 21 may transfer between each other to less than one ounce so long as it is strictly sharing marijuana as is commonly done, and not in exchange for something of value.
Should I Speak to an Attorney?
If you are facing a charge for a drug crime, then you should speak to an experienced attorney. They’ll be able to offer you advice tailored to your unique situation. They’ll also be keeping up with any changes to the laws that could affect your case, so they’ll be knowledgeable about precisely what is affecting you and your case.