Understanding Virginia’s marijuana laws

Virginia continues to hand out harsh penalties for marijuana possession, manufacturing and selling, despite the national trend to decriminalize the substance.

The Virginia Commonwealth University's Center for Public Policy conducted a survey recently gauging public support surrounding marijuana decriminalization. According to findings, nearly eight of 10 people favored a simple $100 fine for possession of small amounts of marijuana as opposed to a misdemeanor charge. Further, 62 percent of people either strongly or somewhat agreed that marijuana should be legal for recreational purposes.

Despite public support, the state's lawmakers continue to block efforts to address current marijuana laws. Knowing what those laws are can keep residents from facing criminal charges.

Is medical marijuana legal in Virginia?

Last year, legislators passed a bill that narrowly allows patients with intractable epilepsy to avoid a conviction for the possession of medical marijuana. Further, Virginia law states no patient may be prosecuted for possessing the substance if he or she has a valid prescription for treating either cancer or glaucoma.

It is important to point out that these laws do not protect patients from getting arrested on drug possession charges. Anyone who is would have to prove that he or she has a valid prescription in order to avoid prosecution.

What are the consequences of marijuana possession?

Possessing any amount of marijuana for recreational purposes is illegal in Virginia. A first offense in this area will result in a misdemeanor charge, which carries with it up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. A subsequent offense will result in a class 1 misdemeanor. In addition, the statute requires a 6 month driver's license suspension.

What are the consequences of selling marijuana?

Penalties for selling or possessing with the intention of selling marijuana are much more severe. The charge and consequences rely chiefly on the amount of the drug that is discovered, such as the following:

  • Half an ounce or less is a class 1 misdemeanor with up to 12 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine
  • From half an ounce up to 5 pounds is a class 5 felony with between one and 10 years in jail and up to a $2,500 fine
  • More than 5 pounds is a felony that includes between five and 30 years in prison

The law states that if someone can prove that he or she gave marijuana to someone else as an accommodation, and not to make a profit, the charge will merely be a class 1 misdemeanor.

What charges are associated with manufacturing marijuana?

Lastly, someone who manufactures marijuana not for his or her own use could face felony charges. A conviction carries with it up to $10,000 in fines as well as a prison sentence between five and 30 years.

State laws also specify that manufacturing any controlled substance, including marijuana, on school property, library property, property open to public use, a school bus stop or publicly-operated recreation community center is illegal. Violating these laws is considered a separate felony charge with a fine of up to $100,000 and a prison sentence between one and five years.

Nationally, many states have legalized marijuana in some form or have lessened penalties for simple possession charges. Virginia has yet to catch onto the trend. A report from WVTG notes that 21 bills related to marijuana have been introduced this session, though they continue to be blocked before ever coming up for a vote. Anyone who has questions about these issues should speak with an attorney.

What are the consequences of marijuana possession?

Possessing any amount of marijuana for recreational purposes is illegal in Virginia. A first offense in this area will result in a misdemeanor charge, which carries with it up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. A subsequent offense will result in a class 1 misdemeanor. In addition, the statute requires a 6 month driver's license suspension.