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.


A first offense is an "Unclassified Misdemeanor," meaning the maximum penalty is 30 days in jail and a $500 fine (or both), and loss of driving privileges. 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 according to some Virginia criminal defense attorneys and advocates for young men and women in the Commonwealth, primarily because it does not allow the defendant to qualify for expungement, and as a result, remains on the individual's record for life.

Virginia General Assembly tightened the laws on cannabis and added a provision allowing its use and distribution for cancer and glaucoma.[1] 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.[2] However, those who get the "251" disposition are still subject to a mandatory six-month driver's license suspension; this penalty was imposed in response to the Solomon-Lautenberg amendment. 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.[3] A second offense is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and a $2500 fine.[4]

2015 failed attempt to decriminalize

In 2015, the Virginia Senate's Courts of Justice committee rejected bills to decriminalize cannabis[5] and remove the smoke a joint, lose your license provision in the Virginia Code.[6]

2015 affirmative defense law for CBD and THC-A oils

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.[7][8][9] The bill had passed Virginia's Senate with a vote of 37-1 in February.[10][11]


  1. Panel Backs Marijuana, Heroin Ban, Tyler Whitley, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 27 Jan 1998.
  2. § 18.2-251, Code of Virginia.
  3. § 18.2-250.1. Possession of marijuana unlawful, Code of Virginia.
  4. § 18.2-11. Punishment for conviction of misdemeanor, Code of Virginia.
  5. "LIS > Bill Tracking > SB686 > 2015 session". Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  6. "LIS > Bill Tracking > SB1444 > 2015 session". Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  7. Vozzella, Laura (2012-12-14). "Va. House allows marijuana oils for epilepsy". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  8. "LIS > Bill Tracking > HB1445 > 2015 session". 2015-03-29. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  9. 6 mins ago (2015-03-03). "Virginia's Medical Marijuana | Bill Deceptive". MJINews. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  10. "Marijuana extracts OK'd for epilepsy treatment in Va.". 2015-02-18. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  11. "Gov. McAuliffe signs bill allowing access to medical marijuana oil". 2015-02-26. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
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