Attorney General endorses decriminalization

Last update: June 27, 2019


The 2019 legislative session adjourned on February 23. While both legalization and decriminalization bills were introduced this past session, those bills were defeated in committee. With increasing support from elected officials, the focus now shifts to 2020.

In June, Attorney General Mark Herring submitted an op-ed to the Daily Press urging the state to “decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, address past convictions and start moving toward legal and regulated adult-use.” Shortly after, lawmakers from both parties, including Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R), also voiced support for decriminalization. Gov. Ralph Northam also pushed for marijuana decriminalization in his 2019 State of the Commonwealth speech.

Polling has shown that almost eight out of 10 Virginia residents support replacing criminal convictions with a fine, and 62 percent favor ending marijuana prohibition all together. Contact your lawmakers and ask them to support marijuana policy reform!

Virginia passes a quasi-medical marijuana law


During the 2018 session, 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 1251which 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 their doctor’s recommendation form (called a “written certification”).

The law was further expanded during the 2019 session with the passage of SB 1557. Effective July 1, 2019, physician's assistants and licensed nurse practitioners will also be authorized to issue a written certification for CBD and THC-A oil. Additionally, the bill 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.

Unfortunately, the law provides only an “affirmative defense,” a protection the defendant can raise during a criminal prosecution — however, it does not automatically prevent the patient from being stopped, arrested, and charged with marijuana possession by police.

Registration applications for patients, parents/legal guardians, and physicians are available now through the Board of Pharmacy. THC-A and CBD oil will be produced and sold in Virginia only by specially licensed businesses called “pharmaceutical processors.” Applications to become a pharmaceutical processor were open through June 8 2018; a $10,000 non-refundable application fee was required. The Board of Pharmacy has issued conditional approval to five pharmaceutical processors to produce and dispense these oils.

MPP will continue to monitor the implementation of this law; for our one-page summary, please click here.

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