Cannabis in Virginia is illegal for all purposes, and possession of even small amounts is a criminal misdemeanor, but per possession of less than 1 ounce of cannabis in Virginia carries the presumption of personal use. Per 2015 law possession of CBD oil or THC-A oil entails an affirmative defense for patients who have a doctor's recommendation for those substances to treat severe epilepsy. Legislation passed in 2019 allows doses to contain up to 10 mg of THC.
In September 2018, the approved the applications for five companies to open medical cannabis dispensaries across the Commonwealth. As of November 2019, builders were getting closer to opening the Richmond district's medical cannabis farm and dispensary on Decatur Street.
As of April 2019, only 251 of the 35,404 doctors licensed to practice in Virginia had registered with the state to write medical cannabis recommendations.
In April 2020, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam approved a bill to decriminalize simple marijuana possession, which took effect July 1, 2020.
A first offense is an unclassified Misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty is 30 days in jail and a $500 fine (or both), and loss of driving privileges. However with a change in the law as of July 1, 2017, the loss of driving privileges is now optional for adults (depending upon the judge's discretion) while still mandatory for juveniles. A subsequent offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of 12 months in confinement and a $2,500 fine (or both), plus loss of driving privileges. A first-offense will qualify for a deferred disposition resulting in dismissal. This option requires a drug assessment, classes, community service, and loss of driving privileges for six months. The first-offender program is controversial, because it can affect immigration status and does not allow the defendant to qualify for expungement, and as a result, remains on the individual's record for life.
Virginia General Assembly tightened the laws on cannabis and added a provision allowing its use and distribution for cancer and glaucoma. There is currently a provision in the law, § 18.2-251, which allows a case to be dismissed if the offender goes through probation and treatment. In the 1990s, Virginia had some of the lightest penalties for cultivation in the United States; cultivation of any amount for personal use counted as simple possession (otherwise it carried felony penalties of up to 35 years imprisonment). Possession is currently an unclassified misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for a first-time offense. A second offense is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and a $2500 fine.
1979 medical regulation
In 1979, Virginia passed legislation allowing doctors to recommend cannabis for glaucoma or the side effects of chemotherapy. In 1997, repeal of the medical cannabis law seemed certain, but this did not actually happen. For many years, though, the medical cannabis law was non-functioning because prescriptions were disallowed by federal law, given cannabis's status under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I controlled substance with no accepted medical use.
2015 failed attempt to decriminalize
2015 affirmative defense law for CBD and THC-A oils
In March 2015, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed House Bill 1445 and Senate Bill 1235, creating affirmative defense against a possession charge that cannabidiol oil (also known as CBD) and THC-A oil were for treatment of epilepsy. The bill had passed Virginia's Senate with a vote of 37–1 in February.
2020 reform measures
Following the 2019 Virginia elections, in which Democrats won control of both houses of the General Assembly, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring called for cannabis to be eventually legalized; he scheduled a Cannabis Summit for December 2019 to address the issues of decriminalization of marijuana, social equity, regulating CBD and hemp products, and pathways towards legalization through legislative efforts.
In February 2020 the House of Delegates voted 64–34 in favor of Delegate Charniele Herring's HB972 to decriminalize personal possession of marijuana. The next day the Senate voted 27–13 in favor of Senator Adam Ebbin's SB 2 with a similar decriminalization scope. Virginia is expected to become the 27th state to remove the threat of jail time for low-level marijuana possession. On March 8, 2020, the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate passed legislation on a marijuana decriminalization plan. In April 2020, this bill to decriminalize simple marijuana possession was approved by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, and the bill will take effect July 1.
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Lawmakers also better defined dosages to reflect that a dose must contain at least 5 milligrams of CBD or THCA and may contain up to 10 milligrams of THC.
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- § 18.2-251, Code of Virginia.
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