Virginia has a long history with cannabis. In fact, the Commonwealth was one of the first places in the U.S. to pass a medical cannabis law. Today, Virginians can qualify for a medical marijuana card to enjoy the benefits of a crop that has been impacting the Commonwealth almost since its creation. If you can believe it, the story of marijuana in Virginia goes back to the first settlement in Jamestown.
That’s right— cannabis has been present in the Commonwealth since the early 1600s. The planting of hemp was mandated by the early colonist government and was one of the cash crops that kept these early settlements afloat.
Today, cannabis is legal for medical use in the Old Dominion. While full legalization of recreational use is still in process, Virginians have the option of purchasing medical marijuana through dispensaries that require a medical card. Medical marijuana gives Virginians a completely legal way to benefit from this Virginian crop, enjoying relief from symptoms like anxiety, chronic pain and insomnia.
What is the history of cannabis in the Commonwealth that has brought us to where we are today and what will the future bring? Let’s take a look at the history of cannabis in Virginia and what medical users need to know today and in the years to come.
Legislating Cannabis – A Timeline
While Virginia was one of the first states to consider the legal use of medical marijuana, it took several decades before the Commonwealth enacted laws that supported true medical use of cannabis.
1979 Medical Regulation
The commonwealth was one of the first states in the US to pass a medical cannabis law back in 1979. This law specified that cannabis could be prescribed for the treatment of glaucoma or to ameliorate the side effects associated with chemotherapy. Despite this early attempt at legalization of medical cannabis, however, the law remained largely moot, as federal law that defined marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance superseded the Virginia law.
The Attempt to Decriminalize in 2015
SB 686 proposed the decriminalization of simple possession and defined a $100 civil penalty for simple possession, as opposed to the existing $500 criminal fine. SB 686 also sought to eliminate 30-day jail sentences related to cannabis. The second bill, SB 1444, sought to make cannabis an exception in a state-wide provision that required that individuals lose their licenses for 6 months when convicted of drug possession. This bill and SB 686 would fail to pass in the General Assembly.
2015 was a more optimistic year for medical marijuana, however. In March of that year, two bills were passed that made it easier for those with epilepsy in the Commonwealth to use CBD and THC-A. Three years later, the General Assembly would pass a second bill that expanded medical marijuana access and allowed doctors to prescribe marijuana to any patient who they felt needed it.
2019 & 2020 Reform
With Democrats gaining control of the General Assembly in 2019, the future began to look even brighter for cannabis in Virginia. In late 2019, the General Assembly passed legislation that allowed both Physician Assistants and RNs to issue certifications providing patients with access to medical cannabis extracts.
Finally, in February of 2020, the Virginia House voted to decriminalize personal possession. This was followed by a bill in the Senate with similar aims.
The Current State of Cannabis in Virginia
On April 7, 2021, the Virginia General Assembly passed HB2312 and SB1406, legalizing the use of cannabis by adults in the Commonwealth. These laws define a three-year process of transition. Beginning in July of 2021, simple possession and home cultivation became legal for any individual 21 years or older. The following excerpt from the Commonwealth’s official government website summarizes what is legal in terms of recreational use until the transition period is complete:
Adults 21 years and older may possess not more than one ounce of cannabis for personal use.
Generally, adults 21 years and older may use marijuana in private residences. However, nothing prohibits the owner of a private residence from restricting the use of marijuana on its premises.
Adults 21 and over may grow up to four plants per household (not per person), according to specified requirements (see “Home Cultivation” below).
“Adult sharing” or transferring one ounce or less of marijuana between persons who are 21 years or older without remuneration is legal. "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.
From this point until 2024, a collection of oversight authorities will develop and implement a full set of regulations regarding the sale and use of recreational cannabis. If everything goes according to schedule, legal sales of cannabis to adults 21 years or older can begin on January 1 2024. Until then, it is still illegal to purchase marijuana. Purchasing medical marijuana through a dispensary that requires a medical card provides a safe and legal option for Virginians currently.
Obtaining your MMJ Card
Getting your medical marijuana card in Virginia involves a simple process. To start, you can schedule a medical marijuana appointment online. After submitting your State ID, payment, and and patient form, you will have an online appointment with a doctor to confirm that your condition qualifies for medical marijuana using either your phone or your computer. Once you have completed this simple process, you will receive your medical marijuana card in the mail and will be able to visit dispensaries to purchase medical marijuana products.
Dispensaries in Virginia
As of this writing, there are five dispensaries around the Commonwealth with plans for five more to open in the near future in five “Health Service Areas” around the state. These dispensaries are located in Richmond, Salem, Portsmouth, Abingdon, and Manassas.
What do you need when you go to a Virginia dispensary? To make a purchase at a dispensary in the Commonwealth, patients will need:
a valid government-issued ID
their registration card from the Board of Pharmacy
a printed copy of their written certification (unexpired)
Keep in mind that only patients and their registered agents can enter Virginia dispensaries. Patients are allowed a 90-day supply maximum in one purchase. The exact amount that defines this supply is determined in consultation between the pharmacist and the patient.
Medical Marijuana in Virginia: What to Expect in the Future
What can Virginians expect between now and full legalization on January 1, 2024? Virginia officials are busy creating a new authority that will regulate the growing marijuana industry. Known as the Cannabis Control Authority, this body will be key in drafting the regulations associated with the purchase and use of recreational and medical marijuana. The CCA will also oversee initiatives that ensure public safety and equity.
In the General Assembly, the 2022 session will revisit some key regulatory sections in the original bills that legalized marijuana. These sections relate primarily to fines associated with possession and the limits that define simple possession.
The next three years in Virginia will be very interesting for medical marijuana and recreational use alike. To legally access tested and regulated medical marijuana products today, qualify for your MMJ card and start exploring your options.
Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.
At Virginia Marijuana Card, our mission is helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to MMJ. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
Call us at (888) 633-5808, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
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