When traveling interstate, it is always important for visitors to take the necessary precautions to make their trip go smoothly. This includes packing the right things, being prepared to spend and doing the research. All these can help you make the most out of your trip without hassle.
Cannabis consumers who plan to visit Virginia should definitely do the same, especially when it comes to the research part. Every state implements their own version of marijuana laws. Without the right information, you might find yourself in trouble with authorities due to cannabis-related offenses. Moreover, every cannabis community have their own culture and trying to learn their etiquettes and practices is the responsible thing to do.
If you are wondering what you should know about marijuana laws and culture in Virginia before your trip, this guide may help. Keep reading.
Mapping Developments in Virginia Marijuana Laws
When it comes to learning about what is legally and culturally acceptable in the VA cannabis community, the first thing you should look into is the development of marijuana laws in the state. This can give you an idea of how the residents and government previously perceived the plant, and how this perception affected lawmaking.
Now, it is important to remember that regardless of laws related to it, the plant has been incorporated in the history of many cultures for decades, even centuries. The same is true for marijuana in the United States where the government encourages farmers in the 17th century to plant hemp. Hemp (with the scientific name Cannabis sativa L.) is known for its versatility, especially when it comes to its fibers which can be used to make ropes, sails and clothing.
The same policy was in effect in VA in 1619, when the Virginia Assembly passed into law a bill that required every farmer to cultivate hemp. In fact, the crop was used as legal tender not only in Virginia but also in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
At one point before its prohibition, this plant was being incorporated in medicinal products and was openly sold in pharmacies. The recreational use of the plant was also accepted in the early 1900s until it became associated with Mexican immigrants whom anti-drug groups blamed for various crimes. Ultimately, this kind of prejudice led to the prohibition of the plant in many states until the Marijuana Tax Act criminalized the use and sale of marijuana.
Today, many states are realizing the medicinal benefits of the plant. In fact, 33 states have passed marijuana laws that made the consumption of this plant legal for medical purposes, including Virginia. Of the 33 states, 11 have made recreational use legal, including the capital of the US, Washington, DC.
Virginia passed its medical marijuana laws in 2017, which allowed patients to use certain kinds of cannabis oils to treat their intractable epilepsy given that they receive a doctor’s certification. Over the years, additional improvements have been made to make such treatment aids more accessible to patients.
In 2018, current Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill letting doctors recommend CBD or THC-A cannabis oils for any medical condition. The following year, a bill that allowed physician assistants and licensed nurse practitioners to make such recommendations was passed. April 2020 saw the passing of bills that legalized CBD and THC-A for MMJ patients, and allowed at least 5 mg of these cannabinoids, as well as 10 mg of THC.
Finally, VA is now implementing a law that decriminalizes the possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis. Carrying such amounts will only result in a civil violation with a fine of $25 and with no jail time and no criminal record. This makes the state the 27th one to decriminalize the plant, so if you are a medical cannabis patient or simply a consumer who plans to visit VA, then you just need to remember this.
While this is a positive development for Virginians, sources say that it is long overdue, especially as polls show that 83% of residents support replacing criminal punishments for cannabis possessions with a fine. Moreover, 61% supports the idea of legalization.
Current Cannabis Culture in Virginia
Given that the state is now implementing more lenient laws when it comes to possession, Virginians can now carry marijuana more freely, as long as the amount remains under the limit and only for personal consumption. In fact, it is seen as something similar to a minor traffic violation. However, keep in mind that drugged driving remains illegal.
Aside from this, Virginia National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has been launching cannabis-related events in support of legalization. This year, the organization was able to launch its January and February events, Legislative Send off, Virginia Cannabis Conference & Lobby Day and Legislative Update + Volunteer Training.
However, due to the current public health situation, the organization was compelled to cancel its March, April, May and June events. Those who are planning to visit in the coming weeks and months, here are the rest of NORML’s events for this year:
- Accessing Medical Cannabis in Virginia this month
- NORML’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in August
- 2020 NORML Conference, which will be held in DC in September
- Voter Engagement in October
- Legislature Welcome Letter Writing in November
- Holiday Social in December
The organization also holds virtual conferences regularly through its official Facebook Page.
NORML is not the only organization that holds meaningful and informative marijuana-related events you can attend during your visit. The Northern Virginia AHEC at George Mason University will be holding the event titled Cannabis Clinical Competencies: using Science to Inform Intervention on September 23, 2020.
This workshop seeks to inform participants of the necessary knowledge helpful in creating clinical strategies regarding marijuana use. Participants will have the opportunity about the benefits and risks of the plant, as well as the science and culture when it comes to cannabis in the healthcare industry. They will also be trained to identify motivators, strategies, intervention methods, and recovery tools.
The Impact of the Pandemic in VA Cannabis Community
As mentioned, some monthly events organized by NORML has been cancelled due to the pandemic. However, this is not the only impact the public health issue has on the marijuana community.
Overall, a study revealed that more than 50% of the participant dispensaries across the country have seen an increase in sales, especially as 81% deem their businesses essential and over 73% are still offering normal services. However, 26% saw a decrease in sales, while 21% did not see any changes. Aside from the sales side, the supply chain has also been affected by “a great deal” (19%), “a lot” (10%) and “a moderate amount” (25%).
The research also indicated that 40% did not have staffing changes, while 27% temporarily decreased the number of their staff and hours. Meanwhile, 8% was compelled to lay off some employees.
However, this may not be the case in some companies. Green Leaf Medical was looking to hire over 300 employees in its cultivation and retail operations not only in Virginia and Maryland. This company was approved to operate in Virginia’s medical marijuana market. In fact, back n May 2020, Green Leaf Medical was processing the hiring of 235 employees to-be for its Richmond production facility and retail operations across 6 locations.
Future Landscape of Marijuana Laws and Culture in Virginia
Virginians may not have recreational marijuana as of yet, but the state seems to be on the right track when it comes to cannabis-related laws. As a visitor, you might be curious as to what you can expect from the state’s marijuana laws and culture in the future.
One of the signs of positive developments in terms of laws is the provision in the recently implemented decriminalization law, which mandated the creation of a work group study to investigate the feasibility of legalization in VA. The panel is set to submit a report detailing its recommendations by November 30, 2020.
Aside from this provision, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus also listed legalization as a priority for its August special session. Moreover, a group of state legislators has been planning to file a bill that seeks to legalize and regulate a commercial cannabis market n VA. The proposal will be submitted next year.
When talking about the development of marijuana culture, it is important to remember that accessibility is an important element in establishing a marijuana culture in the state. Because medical marijuana and decriminalization are only what Virginians have today, legitimate communities include advocacy organizations, among others.
Because of this, it is important for Virginians to have the right conditions for a community and culture to arise. Here are some of the factors that can help form and strengthen cannabis culture in the state:
Adult-use recreational marijuana remains to be illegal in VA, which means that consumers do not have access to such products. They are also not free to form official communities that can help celebrate the benefits of this plant. This is why legalization plays an important role in establishing a VA marijuana culture.
In the event that the plant and infused products were legal in the state, individuals and organizations would be able to convene and band together to celebrate the consumption of the plant for medical and recreational purposes.
Just look at the culture in California where both medical and recreational marijuana is legal. It created a lot of opportunities to join communities, including weed-focused establishments such as cafes and lounges.
Improved Mainstream Perception
While lawmakers are the ones drafting bills and hearing proposals, the pulse of the public remains to be relevant in advocating for legalization. This is why advocacy groups work hard to educate the public and convince them to elect legislators that would benefit their cause. Moreover, stronger public demand for equitable laws can help influence legislation.
As seen in the history of marijuana-related laws in the country, the public perception of the plant and its users affected lawmaking. A more conservative view led to prohibition, which resulted in the plant and its industry moving underground. By improving the mainstream perception of the plant, advocacy groups have higher chances of succeeding with the help of voters.
Stronger Cannabis Industry
A better mainstream perception and legalization will definitely result in a stronger industry, especially as it will open up the state as a viable market. Take a look at states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana. They have thriving industries that led to projections that the industry will increase not by millions but by billions over a few years.
With a stronger industry, more and more people will be able to join the community not only as a consumer but also as employees. Residents can expect a rise in the number of companies entering the VA market, which ill generate jobs in various stages of the supply chain, from cultivation to sales.
One of the best effects of this is that it can lead to economic improvements, what with the tax revenues it will generate. Moreover, it will improve the purchasing power of residents as it offers income to those who successfully enter the community as an employee.
More Support from the Government
Lastly, support from the government is one of the strongest factors that can help create a legitimate community, which can then foster its own culture. This is in the event that the plant becomes legal.
However, government support is also beneficial to establishing a cannabis culture before legalization. How, you may ask? The simple answer is through lawmaking. Remember, local government is composed not only of the executive branch, which includes the governor but also of the legislative branch, including lawmakers.
With support from these people, the likelihood of legalization increases, which can then enable consumers to access the plant and related products, thus, helping create a community and culture.
The Bottom Line
With this information about Virginia’s cannabis laws and culture, you can definitely make your trip go smoother and without trouble. So, make sure to keep these in mind before and during your travel for your own peace of mind.