Virginia Seeks to Tighten Cannabis Regulation

Stephen Andrews
19 Apr 2022

Not a year has passed after Virginia became the first Southern state to legalize adult use of marijuana, its legislators are considering tightening the rules on the recreational use of weed. Governor Glenn Youngkin's administration proposes increasing the penalties related to marijuana possession. The General Assembly will review the proposal later this month. Cannabis advocates liken the move to reintroducing the War on Drugs.

The new proposal says it would be a Class 2 misdemeanor for personal possession of more than 2 ounces of weed and a Class 1 misdemeanor for more than 6 ounces but under a pound. 

The current law in Virginia says that possession over an ounce but less than a pound equals to only a civil penalty of $25. Owning more than a pound amounts to a felony and can lead to up to 10 years imprisonment. Yikes!

Commenting on the new proposal, Executive Director of Marijuana Justice, Chelsea Higgs Wise, said in a statement, "This is yet another attempt to re-activate the War on Drugs under the lie of public safety. Criminalization is a public health issue and legislators should vote to keep us healthy and safe, instead of pointing us toward courts, jails and prisons all for weed."

The proposed changes were brought forward by a state Legislative Audit and Review Commission. Gov. Youngkin also seeks to restrict CBD sales for those aged under 21. 

Furthermore, the administration seeks to ban products with Delta-8 THC.

Youngkin said in a statement, "We protected Virginians from potentially harmful synthetically-modified substances while preserving the market for regulated CBD products currently available."

New Rules for Medical Cannabis

At the same time, the state of Virginia has moved to lift some requirements for access to medical cannabis goods. 

Gov. Youngkin signed a bill earlier this month that aims to provide numerous operational improvements to the state's medical cannabis program. Virginians who want a medical marijuana license will no longer be required to register with the state beginning July. Still, there will be some steps they need to take. 

Patients must obtain approval from one of the nearly 750 medical cannabis practitioners registered in Virginia, the first step in the current process. They will be able to purchase medical marijuana products from legal shops after receiving the certificate from a registered practitioner. 

This particular change in the law will significantly reduce the amount of time patients wait to access medicines. Practice showed that obtaining a license from the board can take months. 

The law also eliminates a $50 fee that patients were asked to pay upon applying for the license. 

Data from Virginia's Board of Pharmacy shows that nearly 47,000 Virginians have registered in the system, and an estimated 8,000 more are waiting for approval. The backlog has forced the board to hire new workers. 

The new law takes effect on July 1, 2022. Until then, patients are still required to register with the board to be eligible to purchase medical goods at state dispensaries. 

The board will continue maintaining a database of the certified patients with the number of new licenses granted each month, information that pharmaceutical and cannabis operators are legally bound to share.

When Virginia introduced its recreational cannabis legislation last year, it started without a regulatory system. Dispensaries across the country could initially only sell cannabis oils, while flower, edible and other products were only later made available.

Stephen Andrews