Virginia: Lawmakers Set Enactment Date for Adult-Use Legalization

Richmond, VA: Members of the Virginia House and Senate have advanced legislation (Senate Bill 1406 and House Bill 2312) to the Governor’s desk establishing a statutory timeline for the legalization of marijuana possession, use, cultivation, and retail sales. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to sign the bills into law.

Commenting on the passage of the bills, NORML Development Director Jenn Michelle Pedini, who also serves as the Executive Director of Virginia NORML, said: “The advancement of this legislation is another historic step for cannabis justice in Virginia. Stakeholders, the administration, and the legislature have dedicated hundreds of hours to craft legislation that is just and equitable, and that will replace the failed policy of cannabis prohibition with one that promotes Virginia’s economy as well as Virginians’ public health and safety.”

Pedini added: “This effort remains a work in progress and our work in Virginia is far from over. NORML is dedicated to continuing to work with lawmakers and regulators to advance legislative reforms that are most closely aligned with the views of the majority of Virginians who desire a safe, legal cannabis market. In particular, we hope to expedite the timeline with which Virginia adults will no longer face either criminal or civil penalties for the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis.”

In a compromise reached by lawmakers in Conference Committee on the final day of the legislative session, legislators agreed to establish an independent agency, the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority, to oversee the establishment of regulations that will govern the adult-use market. That agency will convene this summer. The Committee also established a January 1, 2024 enactment date for the law. Upon that date, but not before then, adults will be able to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to four cannabis plants per household without penalty. The remainder of the 300-page bill, which details the regulatory and market structure, social equity provisions, and repeals criminal penalties, is subject to a second review and vote by the Assembly next year.

Newly released statewide polling data finds that 68 percent of registered voters in Virginia, including majorities of Democrats and Republicans, support legalizing marijuana for adults.

Additional measures facilitating the expunging of past records, permitting dispensaries to provide botanical formulations of cannabis, expanding telehealth access for medical cannabis patients, and protecting certain employees who use cannabis in their off-hours from discrimination in the workplace were also approved by the legislature and now await final action by the Governor.

For more information, contact Jenn Michelle Pedini, NORML Development Director.