(The Center Square) – Marijuana remains in a legal gray area in Virginia 16 months after the state legalized the possession and use of marijuana for recreational purposes.
The state has not established a legal means of acquiring the product for non-medicinal uses.
On July 1, 2021, possession and use of the plant became legal, as long as the person 21 years old or older has 1 ounce or less. Although it is legal to share marijuana with adults, it is not legal to sell the product. An adult can also not provide marijuana as a gift that is contingent on a separate financial transaction, which is a legal loophole permitted in Washington, D.C. and other jurisdictions.
Although residents can grow a small number of plants for recreational use, the state has not yet issued licenses for large-scale cultivation or for any legal sales. The legal sale is expected to begin in 2024, but some have questioned whether it will meet that deadline.
Despite no legal means to sell the products, the illicit market continues and some Virginians have opened marijuana shops. Some jurisdictions have cracked down on these sales, but prosecution has not been consistent throughout the commonwealth.
“Virginia had one of the nation’s largest illicit markets prior to legalization, and until the legislature and Youngkin administration can agree upon an adult-use retail sales bill, the Commonwealth will continue to cede control of its marijuana market to unregulated criminal enterprises,” JM Pedini, the executive director of the Virginia branch of the pro-legalization group NORML, told The Center Square.
“Legalization and regulation provide oversight regarding who may legally operate in Virginia’s cannabis market and provide guidelines, so that those who do can engage in best practices — ensuring that the market is safe and transparent,” Pedini said.
With possession and use legalized, marijuana prosecutions have been drastically reduced, but Pedini noted there are still racial disparities in the enforcement of existing marijuana laws.