According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, marijuana – also called cannabis – is one of the most-used drugs in the U.S. That survey found that in 2021, 35.4% of people aged 18 to 25 indicated that they had used the substance over the past year. It helps that over the past few years, several state governments have legalized marijuana, opening the door for its mainstream use.
On July 21, 2021, Virginia changed its marijuana laws, allowing individuals 21 years old and above to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. It also permitted individuals to grow up to four cannabis plants in their homes.
Does this mean marijuana – for recreational use – is legal in Virginia?
New laws with a catch
New state laws now allow Virginians to enjoy marijuana in the comforts of their own home but with restrictions. In addition to limiting people from possessing up to one ounce and up to four cannabis plants, the new laws also allow “adult sharing,” where people can share one ounce or less of marijuana with others 21 years old or older.
Some things remain illegal, however. These include:
- Possession of too much marijuana: Possession of more than four ounces of marijuana – but not over a pound – is a Class 3 misdemeanor with a $500 fine. Possession of over a pound of marijuana is a felony, and those charged could serve up to 10 years in prison on top of a fine of as much as $250,000.
- Age limit: It’s still illegal for anyone under 21 years to possess, purchase, or consume marijuana.
- Distribution: It’s illegal to sell or distribute marijuana in Virginia. Businesses also can’t “gift” the drug to customers through unrelated purchases.
- Public consumption: The laws prohibiting people from smoking marijuana in public, or offering it to others in public, also remain.
In summary, marijuana is legal in Virginia – but only if the user enjoys the drug in a safe, private environment.
Some extraordinary circumstances could get users unintentionally in hot water. While the state has allowed sharing of marijuana between responsible adults, the act itself can be damning if done in public. Having a friend hold the group’s entire stash of marijuana also puts the friend at risk of a misdemeanor or felony. The substance’s legality remains a gray area, so until more marijuana restrictions are lifted, Virginians should exercise caution and restraint when using cannabis. And those charged with a misdemeanor or felony related to marijuana shouldn’t hesitate to call for an attorney for legal aid.