Marijuana Still Illegal in Virginia Despite Legalization in Border States
With many states passing marijuana legalization or decriminalization statutes, travelers are becoming necessarily concerned about what will happen when they make trips to other states. Will my prescription be valid on vacation? Will I be arrested if caught with my marijuana while just passing through another state between two states that allow it? What if I have to visit family in a state that has not legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes? While we cannot answer these questions in their entirety, here is what you need to know about marijuana laws in Virginia. You should never rely solely on information you find on the Internet; therefore, if you are arrested and charged with any drug crime in Leesburg, Virginia or the surrounding areas, you should contact an aggressive and experienced criminal defense lawyer who knows the law and can explain your options.
Marijuana is a Schedule I Drug
Under federal law, marijuana is still illegal. For many years, medicinal marijuana advocates have fought the federal government to remove cannabis from Schedule I, which is defined as follows:
“Schedule I Substances, are substances or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”
Among the examples given by the statute are marijuana and heroin. Bear in mind that a drug does not have to be listed in the law to qualify as a prohibited Schedule I drug. Therefore, even if a state has legalized the possession and use of marijuana, the federal government still considers it illegal. This has created a web of confusion for lawmakers across the country.
States that permit marijuana do so in a variety of ways
Just because you are told that a state has “legalized” marijuana, it may not be that simple. Consider some of Virginia’s bordering states and how they treat medicinal marijuana.
Effective June 1, 2014, Maryland residents became legally permitted to carry a 30-day supply of prescribed medical marijuana. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) is charged with regulating the distribution of medicinal marijuana. According to House Bill 881, as of June 1, 2016, initial dispensary licenses will begin issuing in order to meet the demand.
District of Columbia (D.C.)
According to the District of Columbia’s Department of Health (DOH), D.C.’s medicinal marijuana law, which became effective on June 27, 2010, permits patients with a legitimate diagnosis and prescription to “purchase up to two ounces of dried medical marijuana per month or the equivalent of two ounces of dried medical marijuana when sold in any other form.”
While both D.C. and Maryland have laws that permit limited use of medical marijuana, both have slightly different requirements. So you may be allowed to carry two ounces in one state but a full 30-day supply – which could easily exceed two ounces – in the other state.
Virginia has not legalized marijuana for any purposes
Under Virginia law, there is no such similar provision allowing marijuana use or possession. Maximum penalties for possession and possession with intent to distribute can be very harsh. A first offense for possession can be up to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail, while a second offense can get you a Class 1 Misdemeanor, a $2,500 fine, and a year in jail. If you are caught with a half ounce or less and convicted of intent to distribute, your penalty can be a Class 1 Misdemeanor, up to a $2,500 fine and a year in jail. Just a little more than half an ounce up to 5 pounds will likely get you a Class 5 Felony and up to 10 years in jail. More than 5 pounds and you can be sentenced to as many as 30 years in prison.
Traveling to or through Virginia
If you are planning a trip to Virginia or just passing through, you should leave your medical marijuana at home. Discuss alternative options with your healthcare provider. If you or someone you know has been charged with a drug crime in Leesburg, Loudoun county or the northern Virginia area, contact Simms Showers, LLP for a free consultation today.