(AP) Adult recreational use of marijuana became legal in Virginia July 1, but the commercial production and sale of marijuana is still almost three years away.
State officials are beginning the process of setting up a new state entity to develop regulations for a legal marijuana marketplace expected to open on Jan. 1, 2024.
Virginia has joined 17 other states with laws allowing adults to possess and consume marijuana. Under the new law, adults 21 and older may legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana and can grow up to four plants per household. But buying or selling marijuana will still be illegal, other than under the state’s medical marijuana program.
Here’s a breakdown of what now is legal and what will remain illegal:
WHAT’S LEGAL as of JULY 1:
Possession of up to one ounce of marijuana (28.3 grams) by adults, 21 and older, without intent to distribute.
Cultivation of up to four marijuana plants per household by adults for personal use. Plants can be grown indoors or outdoors, but must be at a primary residence and cannot be visible from a public street. Each plant must be labelled with the owner’s name and driver’s license or state identification number. Owners must prevent access to the plants by people under 21.
Sharing of up to one ounce in private, by adults, but no payment or other financial compensation is allowed.
WHAT’S STILL ILLEGAL:
Possession or use of marijuana by anyone under the age of 21.
Smoking of marijuana in public.
Consumption of marijuana by drivers or passengers in a motor vehicle while being driven.
Sharing or offering marijuana in public.
Possession of marijuana on school grounds or school buses.
Having an open container of marijuana in a vehicle while it is being operated.
Buying or selling marijuana, other than under the medical marijuana program.
Buying or selling cannabis seeds or cannabis products.
Marijuana gifting schemes, for example, giving away marijuana with the purchase of another item.
Possession of more than an ounce but less than a pound will be subject to a $25 fine. Possession of more than a pound remains a felony.
WHAT COMES NEXT:
Many provisions of the bill dealing with the regulatory framework will have to be reapproved by lawmakers next year. The possession and cultivation provisions will not need a second vote.
A new state entity — the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority — will be established to write regulations for and oversee the cultivation, manufacture and retail sale of marijuana and marijuana products. It will have a chief executive officer, a five-member board of directors, a still-undetermined number of employees and a 21-member advisory council to monitor public health issues and make recommendations on retail marijuana.
The law creates a Business Equity & Diversity Support Team at the authority to do outreach to areas disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition. The team will also create a program to provide loans to qualified social equity cannabis license applicants to promote business ownership and economic growth by disproportionately impacted communities.
The law will also establish the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund, where 30% of tax profits from marijuana sales will go to be used to address the impact of disparate enforcement of drug laws on families and communities, including by providing scholarships and grants to support workforce development, youth mentoring programs, job training and placement efforts, and reentry services.
As of July 1, records of misdemeanor possession with intent to distribute marijuana arrests, charges and convictions will be automatically sealed from public view in the Virginia State Police systems. By July 1, 2025, after several state entities update their record-keeping systems, records of arrests, charges and convictions for simple possession or misdemeanor possession with the intent to distribute will be automatically sealed across all state and private databases. People will also be able to petition a court to seal all other marijuana-related misdemeanors and most felonies.
Retail sales to adults are currently expected to begin on Jan. 1, 2024, if the legislature reapproves the law in 2022.