Legalization law takes effect; sales scheduled to begin in 2024
Last update: July 1, 2021
On April 7, 2021, the Virginia General Assembly voted to approve amendments proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam, making Virginia the first state in the South, and the 17th in the nation, to legalize cannabis for adults!
The new law officially took effect on July 1, 2021. Adults can now legally possess and share up to one ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to four cannabis plants at their primary residence. Legal sales will begin no earlier than July 2024. You can check out our full summary of the law here.
MPP remains concerned about a provision in the law that will criminalize bringing small amounts of cannabis into Virginia for personal use. On March 3, 2021, we sent this letter to Gov. Northam and asked him to request an amendment to exempt one ounce or less from this new criminal penalty. The provision requires re-enactment in 2022, and we will continue working to get this provision removed.
Odor of cannabis can no longer be used as a pretext for searches
During a special session in late 2020, both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly approved, and Gov. Northam signed, a modest cannabis reform bill — SB 5029.
This legislation prevents law enforcement from using the odor of cannabis as a pretext for searching and seizing property. The bill became law and went into effect on March 1, 2021.
Virginia becomes 34th state to enact a comprehensive medical cannabis law
Since enacting a 2017 law that permitted patients suffering from intractable epilepsy to use some types of cannabis oil with a doctor’s certification, lawmakers have continually improved Virginia's medical cannabis program.
Several improvements went into effect on July 1, 2020, making Virginia the 34th state with an effective medical cannabis program. Patients are now formally protected from arrest and prosecution for possessing their medicine — they no longer merely have an affirmative defense. Additionally, Virginia patients with any condition are now able to receive recommendations to use and purchase cannabis preparations with no more than 10 milligrams of THC per dose.
In 2021, the legislature passed legislation that will improve the medical cannabis law by allowing patients to use whole-plant, “botanical” cannabis (HB 2218/SB 1333). The legislature also passed a bill that will protect patients from being disciplined or fired by their employers for using medical cannabis away from work (HB 1862). Gov. Northam signed the bills in March, and they will take effect on July 1, 2021.
You can check out our full summary of the medical cannabis law here.
Registration applications for patients, parents/legal guardians, and physicians are available through the Board of Pharmacy. Cannabis extracts are produced and sold in Virginia only by specially licensed businesses called “pharmaceutical processors.” The Board of Pharmacy has issued approval to five pharmaceutical processors to produce and dispense these oils. The first sales of cannabis extracts began on October 14, 2020.