(The Center Square) – Virginia launched a new website, which provides guidance and information on the legalized possession and use of marijuana, which goes into effect in less than three weeks, July 1.
The new website seeks to explain what will be legal under the new law and what will still remain illegal. Adults 21 years or older will be allowed to use marijuana legally and possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use. A person can also grow marijuana plants for personal use, which is limited to four plants per household.
Adult sharing, which is considered a transfer of up to 1 ounce of marijuana, without any remuneration, will also be legal. However, a person will not be able to transfer marijuana if it is contingent on a separate monetary transaction. It will remain illegal to sell marijuana to another person or offer it along with any kind of commercial transaction.
This differentiates the commonwealth’s marijuana program with the neighboring Washington, D.C. In the District of Columbia, a person can gift marijuana to another person contingent on a separate sale. In some instances, a business will sell overpriced stickers or baked goods and gift up to an ounce of marijuana in conjunction with that sale. Virginia’s law closes the loopholes seen in Washington, D.C.
It will also still be illegal to obtain marijuana outside of the commonwealth and bring it into Virginia because the product is illegal, according to federal law. This led some critics of the legislation to note that there is no way to legally obtain it initially, without first violating state law.
If a person is found with more than 1 ounce of marijuana, but not more than 1 pound, the person will be subject to a $25 civil penalty. If a person is found with more than 1 pound of marijuana, the person would be subject to a felony.
It will be illegal to use marijuana while operating a motor vehicle or for a passenger to use marijuana while the vehicle is being driven, similar to laws regulating alcohol. A person cannot possess marijuana on school grounds.
“Virginia’s law is informed by public health expertise, includes prevention and education measures, and commits resources to needed health services,” the new website notes. “The law creates a Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council to advise the Cannabis Control Authority on all health-related matters, including with veto power over health regulations. The law includes best practices to prevent youth access, including banning advertising that is attractive to youth, prohibiting stores near schools, mandating warning labels and child-prevention locks, and requiring public education campaigns.”
The legislation establishes an interagency workgroup to collect data on information related to public health, safety and equity measures related to the new law.
Commercial cultivation, transport and sale of marijuana will become legal in 2024, which provides time for the commonwealth to establish regulations related to the market and time to set up licenses for businesses. A local government will be allowed to pass ordinances that prohibit the sale of marijuana within their jurisdiction, but cannot prohibit the use and possession of marijuana.