Cannabis in Virginia

Cannabis in Virginia is illegal for all purposes, and possession of even small amounts is a criminal misdemeanor, but per 2015 law possession of CBD oil or THC-A oil entails an affirmative defense for patients who have a doctor's recommendation for those substances to treat severe epilepsy. Legislation passed in 2019 allows doses to contain up to 10 mg of THC.[1][2]


A first offense is an unclassified Misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty is 30 days in jail and a $500 fine (or both), and loss of driving privileges. However with a change in the law as of July 1, 2017, the loss of driving privileges is now optional for adults (depending upon the judge's discretion) while still mandatory for juveniles.[3] A subsequent offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of 12 months in confinement and a $2,500 fine (or both), plus loss of driving privileges. A first-offense will qualify for a deferred disposition resulting in dismissal. This option requires a drug assessment, classes, community service, and loss of driving privileges for six months. The first-offender program is controversial, because it can affect immigration status and does not allow the defendant to qualify for expungement, and as a result, remains on the individual's record for life.[4][5]

Virginia General Assembly tightened the laws on cannabis and added a provision allowing its use and distribution for cancer and glaucoma.[6] There is currently a provision in the law, § 18.2-251, which allows a case to be dismissed if the offender goes through probation and treatment.[7] In the 1990s, Virginia had some of the lightest penalties for cultivation in the United States; cultivation of any amount for personal use counted as simple possession (otherwise it carried felony penalties of up to 35 years imprisonment). In at least one case, a defendant with a massive grow operation of several hundred plants testified that it was all for his own use and a jury handed down a conviction for possession only. Possession is currently an unclassified misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for a first-time offense.[8] A second offense is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and a $2500 fine.[9]

1979 medical regulation[edit]

In 1979, Virginia passed legislation allowing doctors to recommend cannabis for glaucoma or the side effects of chemotherapy.[10][11]

2015 failed attempt to decriminalize[edit]

In 2015, the Virginia Senate's Courts of Justice committee rejected bills to decriminalize cannabis[12] and remove the smoke a joint, lose your license provision in the Virginia Code.[13]

2015 affirmative defense law for CBD and THC-A oils[edit]

In March 2015, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed House Bill 1445 and Senate Bill 1235, creating affirmative defense against a possession charge that cannabidiol oil (also known as CBD) and THC-A oil were for treatment of epilepsy.[14][15][16] The bill had passed Virginia's Senate with a vote of 37–1 in February.[17][18]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Virginia lawmakers allow medical marijuana to be dispensed in lollipops and lozenges". Lawmakers also better defined dosages to reflect that a dose must contain at least 5 milligrams of CBD or THCA and may contain up to 10 milligrams of THC.
  3. ^ Drive On: New Virginia law changes punishment for marijuana possession, Drive On: New Virginia law changes punishment for marijuana possession
  4. ^ Nolan, Jim (3 December 2015). "McDougle: Expunge first-time pot, alcohol possession convictions for under-21 offenders". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  5. ^ Weiner, Rachel (10 March 2017). "Get caught with pot, don't go to jail: Why not everyone is happy". Washington Post. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  6. ^ Panel Backs Marijuana, Heroin Ban, Tyler Whitley, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 27 Jan 1998.
  7. ^ § 18.2-251, Code of Virginia.
  8. ^ § 18.2-250.1. Possession of marijuana unlawful, Code of Virginia.
  9. ^ § 18.2-11. Punishment for conviction of misdemeanor, Code of Virginia.
  10. ^ James A. Inciardi; Lana D. Harrison (11 October 1999). Harm Reduction: National and International Perspectives. SAGE. pp. 84–. ISBN 978-0-7619-0688-9.
  11. ^ February 02, 1997 (1997-02-02). "Laws Passed In 1979 | Va. finds it legalized medical marijuana Law passed in 1979 with no controversy". Retrieved 2016-12-05.
  12. ^ "LIS > Bill Tracking > SB686 > 2015 session". Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  13. ^ "LIS > Bill Tracking > SB1444 > 2015 session". Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  14. ^ Vozzella, Laura (2012-12-14). "Va. House allows marijuana oils for epilepsy". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  15. ^ "LIS > Bill Tracking > HB1445 > 2015 session". 2015-03-29. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  16. ^ "Virginia's Medical Marijuana | Bill Deceptive". MJINews. 2015-03-03. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  17. ^ "Marijuana extracts OK'd for epilepsy treatment in Va". 2015-02-18. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  18. ^ "Gov. McAuliffe signs bill allowing access to medical marijuana oil". 2015-02-26. Retrieved 2015-08-26.