Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday afternoon ceremoniously signed a bill decriminalizing possession of marijuana in Virginia. The new law takes effect July 1.
"This is yet another example of Democrats, yes Democrats, listening to Virginians and taking action on the will of the people," Northam said.
Under the new law, adults 21 years of age or older will be able to legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana if they don’t intend to distribute the substance. Marijuana cannot be used in public or while driving, lawmakers said. Virginia decriminalized marijuana last year and reduced possession penalties to a $25 civil penalty and no jail time for amounts up to an ounce. In the past, possessing up to half an ounce could lead to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.
Individuals can also cultivate up to four cannabis plants without legal repercussion beginning July 1, with punishments ranging from misdemeanors to jail time if over the limit. The plants would need to be labeled with identification information, out of sight from public view, and out of range of people under the age of 21. Marijuana retail sales still do not begin until 2024.
The legislation establishes the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority as the regulatory structure for the manufacture and retail sale of marijuana and marijuana products.
"This is yet another example of Democrats, yes Democrats, listening to Virginians and taking action on the will of the people," Northam said Wednesday.