Decriminalization bill sent to governor's desk!
Last update: March 24, 2020
Just before Virginia’s 2020 legislative session ended, the legislature gave final approval to legislation to decriminalize marijuana possession. The bill now heads to Gov. Ralph Northam, who is expected to sign it into law.
The bill — SB 2 — would make possession of one ounce or less of marijuana a civil penalty punishable by a $25 fine. You can check out our one-pager on decriminalization in Virginia here.
This reform is long overdue. Under current law, marijuana possession is a criminal offense punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or up to a $500 fine. Polling has shown that 83 percent of Virginians support replacing criminal convictions for marijuana possession with a fine.
Legislature approves work group to study legalization
On March 8, 2020, the legislature approved a resolution — SJ 67— that directs the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to study how Virginia should go about legalizing and regulating marijuana.
You can check out a summary of SJ 67 here.
Polling has shown that 61% of Virginians support legalizing cannabis for adult use. Please reach out to your lawmakers in support of legalization.
Virginia's quasi-medical marijuana law keeps improving
In 2018, Virginia lawmakers greatly expanded upon a 2017 law that permitted patients suffering from intractable epilepsy to use some types of cannabis oil with a doctor’s certification. On March 9, 2018, Gov. Ralph Northam signed HB 1251, which provides that doctors can recommend CBD or THC-A cannabis oil for any condition. Patients can possess the oil if it meets the state's requirement of at least 15% CBD or THC-A and no more than 5% THC, and they have in their possession a Board of Pharmacy-registered physician’s recommendation form (called a “written certification”) and a board registration card.
The law was further expanded in 2019 with the passage of SB 1557. Physician's assistants and licensed nurse practitioners are now permitted to issue written certifications for CBD and THC-A-rich oils. Additionally, the law requires the board to promulgate regulations establishing dosage limitations, which will require that each dispensed dose of CBD and THC oil not exceed 10 milligrams of THC.
Most recently, in March 2020, the legislature approved a bill that would formally legalize CBD and THC-A-rich medical cannabis products. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for final approval. This important reform will protect patients from arrest and prosecution for possessing their medicine. Under current law, patients only have an “affirmative defense,” which is a protection the defendant can raise during a criminal prosecution.
Registration applications for patients, parents/legal guardians, and physicians are available now through the Board of Pharmacy. THC-A and CBD oils will be produced and sold in Virginia only by specially licensed businesses called “pharmaceutical processors.” The Board of Pharmacy has issued conditional approval to five pharmaceutical processors to produce and dispense these oils. CBD oil and THC-A oil products are not expected to be available for purchase from the processors in Virginia until spring/summer 2020.
MPP will continue to monitor the implementation of this law; for our one-page summary, please click here.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Virginia, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s email alerts, if you haven’t done so already.