Governor Northam's Proposed Changes to Marijuana Legislation Would Legalize Simple Possession by July 1, 2021


On Wednesday, both houses of the Virginia General Assembly concurred in Governor Northam's proposed amendments to recent marijuana legislation. These amendments allow adults 21 years of age and older to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana beginning July 1st of this year. Once Governor Northam signs the amended version, the change will go into effect on July 1st.

Governor Northam's highly anticipated response to pending legislation in the General Assembly came in the form of amendments released Wednesday to Senate Bill 1406 and House Bill 2312. Some of the amendments are:

  • Allowing those 21 years or older to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana, without the intent to distribute, beginning July 1, 2021, while maintaining other prohibitions for public safety such as prohibiting using or consuming marijuana or marijuana products while driving or possession or consumption on public school grounds.
  • Allowing home cultivation by those 21 years or older of up to 4 marijuana plants beginning July 1, 2021, provided: (i) plants are labeled with an identification tag that includes identifying information about the person and a notation that the plant is being grown for personal use as authorized; (ii) plants are not visible from a public way without the use of aircraft, binoculars, or other optical aids; and (iii) precautions are taken to prevent unauthorized access to the plants by persons younger than 21 years of age.
  • Beginning the expungement and sealing of criminal records on marijuana offenses as soon as state agencies are able to do so and simplifying the criteria for when records can be sealed.
  • Via budget amendments, funding a public awareness campaign on the health and safety risks of marijuana and funding training to help law enforcement officers recognize and prevent drugged driving.
  • Granting the newly created Virginia Cannabis Control Authority the ability to revoke or suspend the license of a licensee that has refused to (i) remain neutral regarding any union organizing efforts by employees, including card check recognition and union access to employees; (ii) pay employees prevailing wages as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor; or (iii) classify no more than 10 percent of its workers as independent contractors and such workers are not owners in a worker-owned cooperative.

The amendments did not change the start date of January 1, 2024, for retail consumer sales.

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