(AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
(AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Tackling the future of legal marijuana in Virginia, and more.

After a historically progressive session of the General Assembly, several bills passed by Gov. Ralph Northam have finally become law, ranging from updating voting rights to signing the historic Virginia Values Act, which will protect the rights of LGTBQ Virginians.  

READ MORE: A List of All the Progressive Bills That Just Became Law in Virginia 

Included in these new laws is the decriminalization of marijuana across the commonwealth. While not technically legalized, decriminalization makes marijuana possession punishable by a $25 fine and no criminal charges. 

While advocates have stated that decriminalization is an important first step, the journey to the  legalization of marijuana is far from over. So where is Virginia in terms of legalizing? What is the state’s stance on medical marijuana? We answer your questions from our Facebook page below. 

Question: I’m very interested to know when I can get access to Medical marijuana as my drs want me to try it as soon as possible. They think it might help me when nothing else has for 17 years. I have heard that licenses have been given out for dispensaries for each region of the state. Dogwood, do you have any status on where that is, please?

Answer: Yes, access to medical marijuana in Virginia is legal! Patients, parents and legal guardians are allowed to apply for medical marijuana from the Board of Pharmacy. People applying must have a written certification issued by a certified medical practitioner. 

If the patient is a minor or incapcitated adult, the parent or guardian must obtain the registration from the Board of Pharmacy. 

However ,according to the National Organization of Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), only registered practitioners may issue written certification. NORML suggests talking to your doctor and asking if they know about the change in laws. 

There is a $50 registration fee for patients and $25 fee for parents/legal guardians.  

In 2017, Virginia approved a regulatory program for the in-state production of some medical marijuana products by five producers officially, one for each Health Service Area (HSA). Further legislation added that licensed operators are allowed to open five additional cannabis dispensing facilities in their HSA in 2020. 

Question: Is there any movement towards legalization?

Answer: Alongside the decriminalization of marijuana, the law includes a proposition of a group study in order to observe the effects of fully legalizing marijuana in the state. 

House Joint Resolution 130 states that the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission will study the options for a regulatory adult use of cannabis and medical cannabis by July 1, 2022. The bill directs the JLARC to do the following: 

  • To study and provide guidance on the potential creation of a Cannabis Control Commission to oversee licensing and regulation of industrial hemp, medical cannabis, and adult use of cannabis
  • To provide regulatory guidance on potential tax rates and revenue forecasts for retail and wholesale products
  • To study and make recommendations regarding the issuance of initial cultivation and retail licenses
  • To develop and recommend a fee structure and grandfathering process for current pharmaceutical processors
  • To study and recommend potential marijuana advertising regulations
     
  • To study and determine appropriate public consumption venues and personal cultivation allowances
  • To study funding and processing requirements for expungement of criminal records and rights restoration related to marijuana decriminalization
  • To study and recommend methods for diversifying ownership of the marijuana market

A state Senate bill from Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) that passed also directs the JLARC to study and make recommendations for regulatory use of marijuana amongst adults, like HJ 130, but will also include growth and sale as well as possession by July 1, 2022.  

There were also two bills dealing with marijuana legalization that were postponed until the 2021 session- house bill 269 and house bill 87. 

Both HB 269 and HB 87 would completely eliminate criminal penalties for marijuana possession for people 21 years of age and older, while decriminalizing possession for persons under the age of 21.

For further details and updates on Virginia’s marijuana policies, check out Virginia NORML.