2020 legislative session begins; decriminalization bill introduced
Last update: January 10, 2020
The General Assembly has convened for its 2020 legislative session, and there is a real possibility this could be the year Virginia decriminalizes marijuana possession.
Sen. Adam Ebbin's SB 2 would decriminalize marijuana possession by making possession of one ounce or less punishable by a maximum fine of $50. Under current law, simple possession of marijuana carries a fine of up to $500 and 30 days in jail.
After both chambers of Virginia’s legislature flipped in the General Election, Democrats now hold the majority in the state Senate and House of Delegates. There has also been increasing momentum from elected officials — including Attorney General Mark Herring, Gov. Ralph Northam, and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R) — to decriminalize marijuana possession.
Polling has shown 76 percent of Virginia residents support replacing criminal convictions with a fine, and 61 percent favor ending marijuana prohibition all together. Contact your lawmakers and ask them to decriminalize cannabis in 2020!
Virginia's quasi-medical marijuana law further expanded in 2019
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 during the 2019 session 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 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.
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 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.