New Virginia cannabis laws take effect July 1

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of cannabis legalization in Virginia. On the same day, most of the legislation passed earlier this year by the divided Virginia General Assembly and signed into law by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin will take effect.

That includes measures that lifted a sweeping ban on facial recognition technology, expanded hunting on public lands, and added a new criminal penalty for marijuana possession.

Through the budget, lawmakers created a new criminal misdemeanor for possessing more than 4 ounces (113 grams) but not more than 1 pound (454 grams) of marijuana in public.

In 2021, the General Assembly – then fully controlled by Democrats – legalized adult possession of up to an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana and laid the groundwork for retail sales to begin in 2024. Possession of more than an ounce but less than a pound was previously punishable as a civil violation with a $25 fine.

This change drew an outcry from civil rights and marijuana justice advocacy groups, who opposed the creation of a new criminal penalty.

The budget also included consumer safety guidelines. Most notably, retail sellers will no longer be allowed to package THC products in a way that makes them look like well-known brands. Children in the U.S. have been accidentally exposed to edible cannabis products because they were packaged similarly to Sour Patch Kids and other popular candies.

Additionally, the new legislation makes it easier for patients to obtain medical marijuana in the state of Virginia. Qualifying patients will no longer need to register with the Board of Pharmacy before purchasing cannabis from a medical marijuana dispensary. Instead, they will only need written certification from a registered health care provider.