is weed legal in virginia

Is Weed Legal in Virginia? Plus VA Weed Laws & Virginia Marijuana Legalization Efforts in 2024

Photo by Derrick Brooks

Is Weed Legal in Virginia?

This is a rather complex question because the answer is yes and no. Medical marijuana is legal in Virginia and continues to be so. Recreational cannabis was legalized by the letter of the law allowing for certain aspects of marijuana use and possession to be legal.

However, there are no legal dispensaries to sell recreational cannabis and the rollout of recreational legalization was stalled. This makes the legal status of cannabis in Virginia complex because technically cannabis is legal, however, there are no legal ways to purchase cannabis.

Has Virginia legalized weed? Can you smoke weed in Virginia? Is it legal to grow marijuana in Virginia? This post will cover the laws governing marijuana in Virginia as well as helpful information to navigate the cannabis industry in the Old Dominion.

But first, how is cannabis legalized on the state level?

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How Do States Legalize Cannabis?

It may seem like a simple change, but Virginia’s legal limbo regarding cannabis shows just how complex cannabis is by the letter of the law. Like with anything involving the law there is a confusing jargon, a large amount of bureaucracy and widespread changes that must be made in order to change laws.

There are three ways to legalize cannabis in the United States.

  1. Decriminalization is the simplest form of “legalization.” It downgrades marijuana possession penalties so it’s no longer a felony. It eliminates jail time or heavy fines. While not quite legalized, it’s the easiest to implement and essentially cuts down on prosecution of cannabis. Here’s a breakdown of decriminalization vs legalization.
  2. Medical Marijuana Legalization approves cannabis products for medical use. This allows patients to receive a cannabis prescription for approved medical conditions. This form of legalization can take time as states must establish a protocol for who can prescribe cannabis, where patients can legally purchase it and under what conditions.
  3. Recreational Legalization legalizes cannabis outright. It establishes the rules, regulations, and industry for legal cannabis across the state. However, cannabis is not fully legalized until recreational sales open up within the state.

There is a fair amount of nuance here’s more information about how cannabis legalization works throughout the US.

This is valuable information in order to understand where Virginia cannabis law stands. These three statutes all in some way factor into the current legal status of cannabis in Virginia. Recreational implementation has been stalled so is cannabis more decriminalized or does it still remain legal?

Is Weed Legal in Virginia?

Cannabis in Virginia is currently technically legal for medical and recreational use. However, the implementation of recreational cannabis has stalled so it’s more decriminalized than legal because while it’s legal to possess up to an ounce of cannabis there are no places for people without medical marijuana cards to legally purchase cannabis.

Recreational sales were meant to begin January 1, 2024 but progress has been blocked by Governor Glenn Youngkin and some legal red tape. There was a re-enactment clause requiring the Virginia legislature to re-approve the sales provision to allow for legal recreational dispensaries to open. It was not approved after the Republican takeover of the House of Delegates.

So while legalized for recreational use the implementation of that law has been stalled in local government meaning there is no legal place to purchase cannabis. Again, establishing a system to allow for legal sales of cannabis is not just a magical shift to legal.

There can be temporary hurdles to the rollout of medical and recreational cannabis in the forms of delays to approving licenses of growers, cultivators, and dispensaries. Without legal access to cannabis it can create a legal gray area where it remains legal but with no legal access which leaves it more decriminalized than legal.

Photo by Stephen Poore

When Did Virginia Legalize Weed?

Unbeknownst to many Virginians, the Virginia Legislature passed a law in 1979 that allowed doctors to prescribe marijuana to treat glaucoma and the side effects of chemotherapy. It went virtually unnoticed until the late 1990s when California talked about legalizing medical cannabis.

It remained slightly ineffectual because there was no legal way to obtain cannabis. It’s almost as if this has been a pattern with Virginia since the same thing is happening today. Since then, new laws have mostly built on this original legalization.

As of July 1, 2021 cannabis possession has been legalized but the sale of cannabis remains in a limbo state as there are no companies holding legal licenses to sell or dispense cannabis outside of medical dispensaries.

Weed Legalization Virginia

In 2015, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed two bills into law that essentially legalized the prescription of cannabis oils in the form of CBD and THC-A oils. Both House Bill 1445 and Senate Bill 1235 legalized the possession of THC-A oil and CBD oil in the treatment of epilepsy. It’s important to note that both oils are non-psychoactive so they weren’t likely to get one high.

In 2018, the Virginia State Board of Pharmacy approved the applications for five medical marijuana dispensaries across the state with them eventually opening the following year. In 2020, SB1015 expanded the law to include marijuana flower in addition to those oils and also expanded the rations that were legally allowable.

In 2021, SB1406 was passed into law, which legalized adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and personal cultivation of up to 4 plants per household as of July 1, 2021. SB1243 legalized Marijuana cultivation, manufacture, sale, possession, and outlined the testing practices and potential penalties.

According to Virginia state code §§ 4.1-1100, 18.2-250.1., penalties have been removed for possession of cannabis. Chapter 11 of the state law outlines the full laws governing retail cannabis.

The first medical marijuana dispensary opened in August 2020. Medical use was governed by the Virginia Department of Health Professions Board of Pharmacy. As of January 2024, it became governed by the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority. The technical legalization of recreational cannabis and shifts in law have made obtaining medical marijuana more simple despite recreational cannabis being essentially unavailable.

Virginia Marijuana Laws 2024

The law in Virginia can be somewhat confusing as of now because cannabis has been legalized for adults over 21 but there are no legal places to purchase cannabis. Adults can even legally grow cannabis but what are the regulations? Here are the laws as of 2024 according to NORML

What Is Legal?

  • Possession of cannabis for personal use by adults 21 and over in your home
  • Public possession of up to one ounce by adults 21 and over
  • Adult-sharing of up to one ounce in private without payment
  • Personal cultivation of up to 4 plants per household by adults 21 and over at their primary residence
  • Purchases of medical cannabis by patients at Virginia medical dispensaries
  • Possessing more than an ounce, but no more than one pound

What Is Not Legal?

  • Possession with intent to distribute
  • Possession of more than a pound is illegal but only punishable by a civil fine of up to $25
  • Public use of cannabis
  • Public possession of over 1 ounce
  • Possession of more than one pound of cannabis could result in up to 1-10 years in prison.
  • Possession or consumption by anyone under 21
  • Possession on school grounds or school bus
  • Consumption in a motor vehicle while being driven (passenger or driver)
  • “Open container” in a vehicle meaning an open container of cannabis
  • Sharing or offering in public
  • Selling or purchasing cannabis outside of the medical program
  • Selling or purchasing cannabis seeds or cannabis products
  • Gifting schemes (gift with purchase, public giveaways, paid entry consumption events)

Given the law as it is, there is a complexity because while cannabis is legal recreationally there is no legal recourse for obtaining cannabis without doing so illegally.

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Virginia Home Cultivation Laws

Virginia HB 2312 and Senate Bill 1406 legalized the home cultivation of cannabis. However, there are some specific guidelines for home cultivation that must be followed to not violate the law.

Personal growers are required to follow these cultivation guidelines:

  • Only four plants per household
  • Cultivation is only permitted at the your primary residence
  • Each plant must have a tag with the owner’s name, driver’s license/state ID number, and “for personal use” clearly visible
  • Plants must not be visible in any public way that would not require the use of an aircraft, binoculars, or other optical aids to see
  • No access by anyone under 21 must be
  • Cultivation is permitted indoors or outdoors, but that may be restricted in rental situations

Is It Legal To Grow Marijuana In Virginia?

As per the law, it is legal for an adult (anyone over 21) to grow up to four plants as long as they adhere to the cultivation guidelines above. However, it remains illegal to sell cannabis seeds so how one might purchase cannabis seeds remains a point of controversy and can put one at risk of breaking the law.

Growing cannabis can also open one up to legal trouble because while possession of up to one ounce is decriminalized if you’re charged with possession with intent to sell you can face heavier charges. This would mean larger fines of $2500 or more and at least one year in prison if charged. You also can only possess up to one pound of cannabis.

Additionally, exposing cannabis plants to underage children could trigger child endangerment charges and that is a still majorly enforced crime.

Possession of cannabis in your home of any amount is covered by the law as long as it is for personal use; however, the question of how you obtained the seeds to grow may open you up to legal troubles.

Dispensaries In Virginia 2024

There are currently 22 dispensaries in Virginia. This number is likely to grow as more people pursue recreational licenses, however, the rollout of legal recreational cannabis is still stalled in Virginia at the moment.

Social equity is a concern and is currently part of the legislation. Many states have established social equity allowances to compensate for people unjustly prosecuted for cannabis related crimes. The goal is to address how strict cannabis laws have affected some marginalized communities.

How To Buy Weed In Virginia

Currently, thanks to some stalled recertifications there is no legal way to purchase cannabis recreationally. The only way to purchase cannabis legally in Virginia is as someone who has been cleared for or prescribed medical cannabis.

The laws surrounding the infrastructure of recreational cannabis sales have not been pushed through just yet. This means while recreational weed is legalized the only form of cannabis that’s legally open to purchase is medical cannabis from licensed dispensaries.

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What Medical Conditions Qualify for a Cannabis Prescription in Virginia?

Luckily, after all of the laws legalizing recreational cannabis, any medical condition that a provider believes would benefit from the use of cannabis can qualify for a medical marijuana card.

How Long Does It Take To Get Your Medical Marijuana Card in Virginia?

Luckily, it’s easy to get your medical marijuana card in Virginia. The process can take at most two days with the right provider.

  • Schedule an appointment with a Green Health Docs provider
    1. Telemedicine appointments are available 7 days per week; patients can typically schedule their appointments for the same week or even the same day.
  • Meet with your provider. If approved, your provider will issue the written certification via email within 24 hours.
  • Once the patient has received their written certification they will be able to immediately start purchasing from medical dispensaries.

The total time frame to getting your medical marijuana certification is 24-48 hours from your appointment date.

When Will Recreational Dispensaries Open In Virginia?

Currently, the state of cannabis is up in the air. There are required laws that must be signed into law to open up Virginia to legal cannabis sales. These laws have been blocked by Governor Glenn Youngkin which threw off the targeted date of opening sales January 2024.

Democratic state Senator. Adam Ebbin sponsored a bill during the 2023 legislative session that would have seen Virginia regulators permit cultivation and retailers by 2024. These steps would be required to open up recreational sales.

Ebbin’s bill passed the Democratic-controlled but died in the House of Delegates. Youngin has however facilitated medical marijuana by legalizing the immediate access to people who receive written certification from a provider. HB933 removed the requirement for patients, parents, and legal guardians to register with the Board of Pharmacy.

Virginia Marijuana News

As of January 1, 2024 the legalization of recreational cannabis went into effect in Virginia. However, the lack of approval of key laws for the licensing of dispensaries and the cultivation of cannabis for recreational use have been stalled.

These are required steps needed to open legal recreational sales leaving recreational cannabis legal but in a limbo where you cannot purchase cannabis but possess.

On January 1, 2023 Virginia’s medical cannabis program will transition from the Board of Pharmacy over to the Commonwealth’s Cannabis Control Authority.

While conservative attitudes and an ambivalence towards legalizing recreational cannabis may have kept recreational sales from being greenlit this is a major million, potential billion loss for the state. Time will tell how long

In January 2024, Senator Aaron Rouse introduced Senate Bill 448 which would allow the Cannabis Control Authority to begin issuing marijuana licenses on July 1, 2024, and open recreational sales to begin at the earliest January 1, 2025.

Final Thoughts

Virginia is one of the first states in the south to legalize cannabis. And yet, Virginia residents do not have legal access to exercise that right. Luckily, medical marjuana is readily available to any patient who receives a written certification from a doctor.

With recreational sales pushed to at earliest January 1, 2025 medical marijuana remains only available as a prescription. However, if you have a condition that could benefit from cannabis this may be your best bet.

Green Health Docs makes the process seamless and can help you find the right doctor for you.


Dr. Anand DugarThis article has been reviewed by Dr. Anand Dugar, an anesthesiologist, pain medicine physician and the founder of Green Health Docs. Graduating from medical school in 2004 and residency in 2008, Dr. Dugar has been a licensed physician for almost 20 years and has been leading the push for medical cannabis nationwide.