New VA Marijuana & Expungement Laws Take Effect in July

On July 1, 2021, Virginia's new recreational marijuana and expungement laws will take effect. The following blog post is an overview of each new law and how they impact residents. 

New Recreational Marijuana Law in Virginia 

Adults who are at least 21 years of age can legally possess up to one (1) ounce of cannabis starting July 1. If an adult who meets the age requirement is caught with more than an ounce but less than a pound, he/she will be cited with a $25 fine. However, an adult who is caught with more than a pound can be charged with a felony, which carries a maximum prison sentence of ten (10) years and a fine no more than $250,000.  

If a person under 21 years old is found to be in possession of cannabis, then he/she faces a $25 fine and must enroll in a substance abuse treatment and education program. Possession on school grounds is a Class 2 misdemeanor – no matter the age of the offender. 

If an of-age adult smokes or otherwise uses marijuana in public or offers the substance as a gift in public, then a first offense is punishable by a $25 fine. A second offense involves mandatory drug treatment, while a third offense is considered a Class 4 misdemeanor. 

When it comes to DUI charges, if there is an “open container” in “the passenger area” of a vehicle at the time of the traffic stop, then the police will presume that a person has consumed cannabis. In other words, if the substance is not in its original manufacturer's container, then it is considered an open container. 

However, retail sales of recreational cannabis will not start until 2024. This means the only legal way to obtain marijuana will be to grow it at home or receiving it as a gift from a home grower. 

The law allows people to grow or cultivate up to four (4) plants for personal use per household. If a person is caught growing between four (4) and ten (10) plants in his/her home, then he/she will face a $250 fine. Yet, growing more than 50 plants is a felony offense. 

Regarding the open container law, since people will most likely be transporting marijuana in a Ziplock bag or another type of common container, it is wise to keep it in your trunk. Again, the passenger area refers to any part of the car that is readily accessible to the driver. 

Lastly, anyone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana offense will have their charges automatically sealed. In addition, individuals who were convicted of more serious charges can file a petition to have their records cleared. 

New Expungement Law in Virginia 

Also beginning in July, the new expungement law creates a system for automatically sealing nine (9) misdemeanor charges after seven (7) years, and there are no new convictions during that period. 

The seven eligible misdemeanor charges include: 

  • Trespass on posted property 

  • Trespass after having been forbidden 

  • Instigating others to trespass 

Additionally, the law allows people who have been convicted of other misdemeanors and certain felonies to petition the court to request record sealing. For those who have been convicted of Class 5 and Class 6 felonies, including felony larceny, a record can be sealed after ten (10) years after they file a petition, so long as the person has not been convicted of any other criminal offense during that time. 

Criminal convictions that are not eligible for expungement or record-sealing include DUI and domestic violence offenses. Additionally, the law allows people who have been convicted of other misdemeanors and certain felonies to petition the court to request record sealing. For those who have been convicted of Class 5 and Class 6 felonies, including felony larceny, a record can be sealed after ten (10) years after they file a petition, so long as the person has not been convicted of any other criminal offense during that time. 

Criminal convictions that are not eligible for expungement or record-sealing include DUI and domestic violence offenses. Furthermore, there is a lifetime limit of two (2) sentencing events that are eligible for record sealing and you cannot be convicted of a felony that is punishable by life imprisonment in order to have a misdemeanor or lower-level felony expunged. 

If you are currently facing marijuana-related charges or interested in expungement in Fredericksburg or within the surrounding area, contact Andrew J. Cornick, Attorney at Law today at (540) 827-4446 for a free consultation. Let a former prosecutor help you! 

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