Six Do’s + Don’ts For The Cannabis Curious
September 21, 2021 @ 9:30am
Marijuana possession and consumption laws are rapidly changing across the country, and it’s no different in Virginia. The state has already seen a massive change in policy over the past year, and by 2024, recreational use will be fully legal. If you’re new to the cannabis scene or are simply curious to learn more, this guide to possession, home cultivation, consumption and more is for you.
One: Take It Public
As long as you’re 21 or older, you can possess up to one ounce of marijuana in public. This can be in the form of classic bud or the equivalent amount in other cannabis products like oils, concentrates, topicals, edibles, etc.
If you’ve got more than an ounce but less than a pound, you’ll be charged with a $25 fine — but possession of more than a pound of marijuana, or its cannabis product equivalent, is a felony punishable by one to 10 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.
But this only applies when you’re in public. There is no limit to how much marijuana you may possess at home — and this goes for home cultivation, too.
Two: Grow At Home
The law states that Virginia residents who are 21 and older may grow up to four cannabis plants at home. The plants can’t be visible to the public (i.e., out on your front porch or next to a window) and must be inaccessible to people who are younger than 21 years of age.
If you decide to start cultivating your own cannabis, make sure you tag each of your plants with your name, driver’s license or identification number and a note stating it’s being grown for personal use.
Three: Hold Off On Sales
Unfortunately, recreational sales won’t be legal until January 1, 2024 — but advocacy groups like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Marijuana Justice are pushing legislators to move this date forward. This means unless you have a medical marijuana license (and you’re 21+), you can’t purchase cannabis products from a dispensary until recreational sales become legal.
But remember, as long as you’re not in public and you’re at least 21 years old, recreational consumption is legal.
Four: Visit A Dispensary
Medicinal use of cannabis has been legal in Virginia since spring 2020. There are currently four medical cannabis dispensaries open in the state: Dharma Pharmaceuticals in Abingdon, gLeaf in Richmond, BEYOND / HELLO in Manassas and Columbia Care in Portsmouth.
You can only buy cannabis products in the form of oils and edibles from medical dispensaries, but sales for cannabis in its flower form are expected to open in September.
To register for Virginia’s medical cannabis program, you first have to obtain a valid written certification from a Board of Pharmacy-registered practitioner. Then, visit the Virginia Department of Health Professions (DHP) Initial Applications online to complete your application.
There is a fee of $50 for patients and $25 for parent/legal guardian or registered agent. Necessary documents include:
- A copy of the written certification issued by a registered practitioner
- Proof of residency of the qualifying patient and parent or legal guardian, if applicable, such as a government-issued identification card or tax receipt
- Proof of identity and, if the patient is a minor, proof of identity of the parent or legal guardian in the form of a government-issued identification card
- Proof of age in the form of a birth certification or other government-issued identification
A valid Virginia driver’s license will fulfill the requirements for proof of age, identity and residency, and a detailed walk-through of the registration process for the medical cannabis program is available at vanorml.org/register.
Five: Gift It Instead
Even though you can grow your own cannabis plants, it’s still illegal to sell cannabis products — whether bud, oils or edibles. Instead, you can gift them.
Virginia’s cannabis law states an adult over the age of 21 can gift up to one ounce of cannabis to another adult of age, but for no remuneration (or no payment, in layman’s terms).
In D.C., which has a gifting statute similar to Virginia’s, there is evidence some individuals and businesses have been exploiting this program by selling products, like merchandise or works of art, and including a free gift of cannabis with every purchase. This loophole has created an entire gray, or unregulated, market.
To solve this problem, lawmakers in Virginia added language to the bill to clarify what gifting marijuana means. The new provision states the legal gifting of marijuana does not include giving it away with purchased goods or services.
John McGowan, a managing member of cannabis-industry-focused law firm Kinner & McGowan, says cannabis consumers should take care to recognize the differences between gifting laws in Virginia and D.C.
“In D.C., the law allows up to one ounce of flower to be transferred for no value, but is silent on whether or not businesses can make these transfers,” McGowan says. “In Virginia, there is no gray market. The law expressly disallows businesses from gifting in any capacity. “
Six: Keep Things Local
While every state has its own legislation regarding cannabis, the use, sale or production of cannabis products with more than 0.3% concentration of THC is still illegal under federal law.
So, what does this mean for you?
McGowan says the federal vs. state issue with cannabis law is incredibly nuanced, but in short: Cannabis is federally illegal across the board.
“Certain states have chosen to legalize cannabis within their borders, however,” McGowan says. “So, even if you buy state-legal weed, you are still technically breaking federal law. This means [people] cannot cross state lines with any amount or form of cannabis.”
For more information, visit vanorml.org and marijuanajustice.org.
BEYOND / HELLO: 8100 Albertstone Cir. Manassas, VA; beyond-hello.com
Columbia Care: 4012 Seaboard Ct. Portsmouth, VA; col-care.com
Dharma Pharmaceuticals: 26864 Watauga Rd. Abingdon, VA; dharmacann.com
gLeaf: 2804 Decatur St. Building 30, Richmond, VA; gleaf.com
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