The Bulletin

What Virginia’s marijuana legalization bill actually says

By: - June 25, 2021 12:11 am

Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation legalizing marijuana in Virginia at a ceremony in April. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

The legislation that will make possession and cultivation of marijuana legal on July 1 is almost 300 pages. But in reality, only a few sections are actually going into effect.

That’s because lawmakers included hundreds of pages of rules and regulations they’d like to enact, but couldn’t yet agree on. So, at the end of the session, they slapped what they call a “re-enactment clause” on it. Basically, it’s a road map for what the General Assembly might do next year.

That’s all well and good, but in this particular case, the approach has the effect of making it exceedingly difficult for normal people without a law degree or a decoder ring to understand what language in the bill has real-life implications. (In some cases, it’s led localities to begin debating provisions that won’t necessarily become law.)

So, without further ado, here’s the language that lawmakers actually inserted into the state’s criminal code governing possession and cultivation by adults. (And if you’re looking for an explanation sans legalese, see our story from earlier this year or any number of FAQs.)

§ 4.1-1100. Possession, etc., of marijuana and marijuana products by persons 21 years of age or older lawful; penalties.

A. Except as otherwise provided in this subtitle and notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person 21 years of age or older may lawfully possess on his person or in any public place not more than one ounce of marijuana or an equivalent amount of marijuana product as determined by regulation promulgated by the Board.

B. Any person who possesses on his person or in any public place marijuana or marijuana products in excess of the amounts set forth in subsection A is subject to a civil penalty of no more than $25. The penalty for any violations of this section by an adult shall be prepayable according to the procedures in § 16.1-69.40:2.

C. With the exception of a licensee in the course of his duties related to such licensee’s marijuana establishment, any person who possesses on his person or in any public place more than one pound of marijuana or an equivalent amount of marijuana product as determined by regulation promulgated by the Board is guilty of a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than 10 years and a fine of not more than $250,000, or both.

D. The provisions of this section shall not apply to members of federal, state, county, city, or town law enforcement agencies, jail officers, or correctional officers, as defined in § 53.1-1, certified as handlers of dogs trained in the detection of controlled substances when possession of marijuana is necessary for the performance of their duties.

§ 4.1-1101. Home cultivation of marijuana for personal use; penalties.

A. Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision c of § 18.2-248.1, a person 21 years of age or older may cultivate up to four marijuana plants for personal use at their place of residence; however, at no point shall a household contain more than four marijuana plants. For purposes of this section, a “household” means those individuals, whether related or not, who live in the same house or other place of residence. A person may only cultivate marijuana plants pursuant to this section at such person’s main place of residence.

B. A person who cultivates marijuana for personal use pursuant to this section shall:

1. Ensure that no marijuana plant is visible from a public way without the use of aircraft, binoculars, or other optical aids;

2. Take precautions to prevent unauthorized access by persons younger than 21 years of age; and

3. Attach to each marijuana plant a legible tag that includes the person’s name, driver’s license or identification number, and a notation that the marijuana plant is being grown for personal use as authorized under this section.

C. A person shall not manufacture marijuana concentrate from home-cultivated marijuana. The owner of a property or parcel or tract of land may not intentionally or knowingly allow another person to manufacture marijuana concentrate from home-cultivated marijuana within or on that property or land.

D. The following penalties or punishments shall be imposed on any person convicted of a violation of this section:

1. For possession of more than four marijuana plants but no more than 10 marijuana plants, (i) a civil penalty of $250 for a first offense, (ii) a Class 3 misdemeanor for a second offense, and (iii) a Class 2 misdemeanor for a third and any subsequent offense;

2. For possession of more than 10 but no more than 49 marijuana plants, a Class 1 misdemeanor;

3. For possession of more than 49 but no more than 100 marijuana plants, a Class 6 felony; and

4. For possession of more than 100 marijuana plants, a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than 10 years and a fine of not more than $250,000, or both.

 

§ 4.1-1101.1. Adult sharing of marijuana.

A. For the purposes of this section, “adult sharing” means transferring marijuana between persons who are 21 years of age or older without remuneration. “Adult sharing” does not include instances in which (i) marijuana is given away contemporaneously with another reciprocal transaction between the same parties; (ii) a gift of marijuana is offered or advertised in conjunction with an offer for the sale of goods or services; or (iii) a gift of marijuana is contingent upon a separate reciprocal transaction for goods or services.

B. Notwithstanding the provisions of § 18.2-248.1, no civil or criminal penalty may be imposed for adult sharing of an amount of marijuana that does not exceed one ounce or of an equivalent amount of marijuana products.

§ 4.1-1105.1. Possession of marijuana or marijuana products unlawful in certain cases; venue; exceptions; penalties; treatment and education programs and services.

A. No person younger than 21 years of age shall consume or possess, or attempt to consume or possess, any marijuana or marijuana products, except by any federal, state, or local law-enforcement officer or his agent when possession of marijuana or marijuana products is necessary in the performance of his duties. Such person may be prosecuted either in the county or city in which the marijuana or marijuana products were possessed or consumed or in the county or city in which the person exhibits evidence of physical indicia of consumption of marijuana or marijuana products.

B. Any person 18 years of age or older who violates subsection A is subject to a civil penalty of no more than $25 and shall be ordered to enter a substance abuse treatment or education program or both, if available, that in the opinion of the court best suits the needs of the accused.

C. Any juvenile who violates subsection A is subject to a civil penalty of no more than $25 and the court shall require the accused to enter a substance abuse treatment or education program or both, if available, that in the opinion of the court best suits the needs of the accused. For purposes of §§ 16.1-266, 16.1-273, 16.1-278.8, 16.1-278.8:01, and 16.1-278.9, the court shall treat the child as delinquent.

D. Any such substance abuse treatment or education program to which a person is ordered pursuant to this section shall be provided by (i) a program licensed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services or (ii) a program or services made available through a community-based probation services agency established pursuant to Article 9 (§ 9.1-173 et seq.) of Chapter 1 of Title 9.1, if one has been established for the locality. When an offender is ordered to a local community-based probation services agency, the local community-based probation services agency shall be responsible for providing for services or referring the offender to education or treatment services as a condition of probation.

E. Any civil penalties collected pursuant to this section shall be deposited into the Drug Offender Assessment and Treatment Fund established pursuant to § 18.2-251.02.

§ 4.1-1107. Using or consuming marijuana or marijuana products while in a motor vehicle being driven upon a public highway; penalty.

A. For the purposes of this section:

“Open container” means any vessel containing marijuana or marijuana products, except the originally sealed manufacturer’s container.
“Passenger area” means the area designed to seat the driver of any motor vehicle, any area within the reach of the driver, including an unlocked glove compartment, and the area designed to seat passengers.

“Passenger area” does not include the trunk of any passenger vehicle; the area behind the last upright seat of a passenger van, station wagon, hatchback, sport utility vehicle or any similar vehicle; the living quarters of a motor home; or the passenger area of a motor vehicle designed, maintained, or used primarily for the transportation of persons for compensation, including a bus, taxi, or limousine, while engaged in the transportation of such persons.

B. It is unlawful for any person to use or consume marijuana or marijuana products while driving a motor vehicle upon a public highway of the Commonwealth or while being a passenger in a motor vehicle being driven upon a public highway of the Commonwealth.

C. A judge or jury may make a permissive inference that a person has consumed marijuana or marijuana products in violation of this section if (i) an open container is located within the passenger area of the motor vehicle, (ii) the marijuana or marijuana products in the open container have been at least partially removed and (iii) the appearance, conduct, speech, or other physical characteristic of such person, excluding odor, is consistent with the consumption of marijuana or marijuana products. Such person may be prosecuted either in the county or city in which the marijuana was used or consumed, or in the county or city in which the person exhibits evidence of physical indicia of use or consumption of marijuana.

D. Any person who violates this section is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor

§ 4.1-1108. Consuming marijuana or marijuana products, or offering to another, in public place; penalty.

A. No person shall consume marijuana or a marijuana product or offer marijuana or a marijuana product to another, whether accepted or not, at or in any public place.

B. Any person who violates this section is subject to a civil penalty of no more than $25 for a first offense.

A person who is convicted under this section of a second offense is subject to a $25 civil penalty and shall be ordered to enter a substance abuse treatment or education program or both, if available, that in the opinion of the court best suits the needs of the accused. A person convicted under this section of a third or subsequent offense is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.

§ 4.1-1109. Consuming or possessing marijuana or marijuana products in or on public school grounds; penalty.

A. No person shall possess or consume any marijuana or marijuana product in or upon the grounds of any public elementary or secondary school during school hours or school or student activities.

B. In addition, no person shall consume and no organization shall serve any marijuana or marijuana products in or upon the grounds of any public elementary or secondary school after school hours or school or student activities.

C. Any person convicted of a violation of this section is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.

§ 4.1-1110. Possessing or consuming marijuana or marijuana products while operating a school bus; penalty.

Any person who possesses or consumes marijuana or marijuana products while operating a school bus and transporting children is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. For the purposes of this section, “school bus” has the same meaning as provided in § 46.2-100.

The voting board shows a 20-20 tie on Gov. Ralph Northam’s amendments to SB1406, the marijuana legalization bill on Wednesday. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax broke the tie by voting for the bill, passing it with the governor’s amendments moving the effective date up to July 1, 2021. Democrat Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, was the only Democrat to vote against the measure. (Pool photo by Bob Brown/ Richmond Times-Dispatch)

§ 4.1-1112. Limitation on carrying marijuana or marijuana products in motor vehicle transporting passengers for hire; penalty.

The transportation of marijuana or marijuana products in any motor vehicle that is being used, or is licensed, for the transportation of passengers for hire is prohibited, except when carried in the possession of a passenger who is being transported for compensation at the regular rate and fare charged other passengers.

Any person convicted of a violation of this section is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

§ 4.1-1120. Persons charged with first offense may be placed on probation; conditions; substance abuse screening, assessment treatment, and education programs or services; drug tests; costs and fees; violations; discharge.

A. Whenever any person who has not previously been convicted of any offense under this subtitle pleads guilty to or enters a plea of not guilty to an offense under this subtitle, the court, upon such plea if the facts found by the court would justify a finding of guilt, without entering a judgment of guilt and with the consent of the accused, may defer further proceedings and place the accused on probation upon terms and conditions.

B. As a term or condition, the court shall require the accused to undergo a substance abuse assessment pursuant to § 19.2-299.2 and enter treatment or an education program or services, or any combination thereof, if available, such as, in the opinion of the court, may be best suited to the needs of the accused based upon consideration of the substance abuse assessment. The program or services may be located in the judicial district in which the charge is brought or in any other judicial district as the court may provide. The services shall be provided by (i) a program licensed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, or a similar program that is made available through the Department of Corrections; (ii) a local community-based probation services agency established pursuant to § 9.1-174; or (iii) an alcohol safety action program (ASAP) certified by the Commission on the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP).

C. The court shall require the person entering such program under the provisions of this section to pay all or part of the costs of the program, including the costs of the screening, assessment, testing, and treatment, based upon the accused’s ability to pay, unless the person is determined by the court to be indigent.

D. As a condition of probation, the court shall require the accused (i) to successfully complete treatment or education programs or services, (ii) to remain drug-free and alcohol-free during the period of probation and submit to such tests during that period as may be necessary and appropriate to determine if the accused is drug-free and alcohol-free, (iii) to make reasonable efforts to secure and maintain employment, and (iv) to comply with a plan of up to 24 hours of community service. Such testing shall be conducted by personnel of the supervising probation agency or personnel of any program or agency approved by the supervising probation agency.

E. Upon violation of a term or condition, the court may enter an adjudication of guilt and proceed as otherwise provided. Upon fulfillment of the terms and conditions, the court shall discharge the person and dismiss the proceedings against him. Discharge and dismissal under this section shall be without adjudication of guilt and is a conviction only for the purposes of applying this section in subsequent proceedings.

F. When any juvenile is found to have committed a violation of subsection A, the disposition of the case shall be handled according to the provisions of Article 9 (§ 16.1-278 et seq.) of Chapter 11 of Title 16.1.

§ 4.1-1121. Issuance of summonses for certain offenses; civil penalties.

Any violation under this subtitle that is subject to a civil penalty is a civil offense and shall be charged by summons. A summons for a violation under this subtitle that is subject to a civil penalty may be executed by a law-enforcement officer when such violation is observed by such officer. The summons used by a law enforcement officer pursuant to this section shall be in a form the same as the uniform summons for motor vehicle law violations as prescribed pursuant to § 46.2-388. Any civil penalties collected pursuant to this subtitle shall be deposited into the Drug Offender Assessment and Treatment Fund established pursuant to §18.2-251.02.

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Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association. Contact him at [email protected]

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