Marijuana is legal for adults and is taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol; state also has a medical marijuana law
Last update: March 06, 2023
Bill to legalize adult use sales defeated in 2023 legislative session
In 2021, Virginia became the first state in the South, and the 17th in the nation, to legalize cannabis for adults!
Adults can now legally possess and share up to one ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to four cannabis plants at their primary residence. You can check out our full summary of the law here.
However, other aspects of the law — such as details for establishing a regulated cannabis market — required reenactment in another legislative session for them to take effect. In the November 2021 election, control of the House of Representatives flipped to a Republican majority and Glenn Youngkin (R) was elected governor. Legal sales were scheduled to begin on January 1, 2024, but stalled under this new leadership. During the 2023 legislative session, the Senate passed a bill to legalize adult-use cannabis sales, but that bill was defeated in a 5-3 party line vote in the House General Laws subcommittee.
The legislature has adjourned for the year, leaving adult-use consumers with no access to regulated cannabis. 2023 is an election year in Virginia, so voters will have a chance to elect politicians who want to finish the job on legalization.
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 improved the medical cannabis law by allowing patients to use whole-plant, “botanical” cannabis (HB 2218/SB 1333). The legislature also passed a bill that protects patients from being disciplined or fired by their employers for using medical cannabis away from work (HB 1862). Then-Gov. Northam (D) signed the bills in March, and they took effect on July 1, 2021.
Additionally, effective July 1, 2022, patients and caregivers are no longer required to register with the Board of Pharmacy. A Written Certification for the Use of Medical Cannabis from a Registered Practitioner for Medical Cannabis is still required and must be presented at the dispensary, along with a government-issued ID, to obtain medical cannabis products.
You can check out our full summary of the medical cannabis law here. Optional registration card applications, a list of current registered practitioners for medical cannabis, and a list of medical cannabis dispensing locations can be found though the Board of Pharmacy website.
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Last year, Virginia made history by becoming the first state in the South to legalize cannabis for adults. While adults can now legally possess and cultivate cannabis in the state, other aspects of the law — such as details for establishing a regulated cannabis market — don’t kick in until 2024. And, nearly all of the cannabis sales provisions are subject to further approval by the incoming legislature and governor.