Legislation Allows Small Amounts of Marijuana

Virginia passed legislation on April 7 legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana beginning July 1 of 2021.

Law

Photo by Bill Oxford: The bill comes after months of debate between Republicans and Democrats over details and only passed after Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax broke a 20-20 tie vote in the state senate.

By John Ward | jward82@radford.edu

Virginia passed legislation on April 7 legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana beginning July 1 of 2021.

The bill comes after months of debate between Republicans and Democrats over details and only passed after Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax broke a 20-20 tie vote in the state senate.

[epq-quote align=”align-left”]The bill will make it legal to possess up to an ounce of marijuana at a time and allows for a single household to grow up to four plants.[/epq-quote]

The bill will make it legal to possess up to an ounce of marijuana at a time and allows for a single household to grow up to four plants.

While possession will be legal, smoking in public, distribution, and sales of recreational marijuana (even from dispensaries) remains illegal until 2024, meaning while smokers may grow their own plants, there is no way for them to legally acquire the plant for the foreseeable future.

The bill also mandates the sealing of criminal records related to marijuana distribution beginning July 1. Those with felony charges against them may begin petitioning the courts for an expungement of their records beginning in 2025.

Included within the bill is also the founding of the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority, an independent organization whose purpose is to create and enforce regulations surrounding marijuana use in Virginia.

[epq-quote align=”align-right”]The legalization of recreational marijuana was a campaign platform Governor Ralph Northam ran on back in 2018.[/epq-quote]

The legalization of recreational marijuana was a campaign platform Governor Ralph Northam ran on back in 2018.

“This is a monumental step to address racial disparities in our criminal justice system and build an equitable, inclusive future for our Commonwealth,” Northam said on Twitter.

This is not the first time Northam had referenced an equitable, inclusive future, using the same phrasing last year when Virginia officially decriminalized marijuana, making simple possession no longer a crime.

In a blog post after the bill passed, Development Director of Virginia NORML Jenn Michelle Pedini said, “This is an incredible victory for Virginia. Legalization will bring an end to the thousands of low-level marijuana infractions occurring annually in the Commonwealth — ending a discriminatory practice that far too often targets Virginians who are young, poor, and people of color.”

The criminalization of marijuana has historically affected African Americans at a much higher rate. African Americans are arrested at a rate 3.4 times higher in Virginia, according to the ACLU.

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