Although cannabis has become legal for both medicinal and recreational in many states throughout the country, Virginia is not one of them. However, the state does have a very limited medical marijuana law, allowing those diagnosed with epilepsy to possess certain high-CBD, low-THC medical cannabis oils.
In March, Governor Ralph Northam signed HB1251, which expands the affirmative defense for possession of medical cannabis oils to any diagnosed condition. This means, if charged for possession, a signed affirmative defense certificate—that is signed by a qualified doctor—may be submitted as a patient’s or caregiver’s defense in a Virginia criminal court 10 days before trial.
Due to the lack of decimalization regarding cannabis in Virginia, penalties for marijuana possession remain strict. Possession of fewer than two ounces of cannabis is considered a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum jail sentence of 30 days and/or a fine of up to $500. At the same time, sale of five pounds or more is a Class 5 felony, resulting in a prison sentence between five and 30 years.
Yet, giving someone cannabis is not considered as serious of a crime as selling pot. So if the defendant can demonstrate in court that they gave the alleged purchaser the cannabis for free, the defendant is only guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. This type of misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum jail sentence of 12 months and/or a fine of up to $2,500.